An Interview with Wade Whitworth
Wade Whitworth and his fiance Nicole pictured at Stewart Bosley, Jr.'s Henrietta Bridge Farm
Wade Whitworth is a seventh-generation Floridian and a third-generation farmer. He has lived in Palm Beach County his entire life and has a deep love and passion for food. Growing up and working on a farm gave Wade vast experience and knowledge about growing various types of foods, especially vegetables and fruits. His talents as a producer and grower have helped him in his new role as the Farm Business to Relation Development Manager for Joy 4 Greens, which involves buying and sourcing fresh American produce while supplying farmers with fair wages.
“I understand how farms work and I understand the importance of working with the farmers to make sure that they get a fair wage for their hard work,” Wade said. “One of my goals is to develop this type of mutually beneficial relationship between the farmer and Joy 4 Greens in order to help support the farming community.”
Wade is currently a member of the Florida Food Policy Council and is past President of the Eastern Palm Beach County Farm Bureau. He has sat on the Florida Farm Bureau Trade Committee and is on the Palm Beach County Agricultural Enhancement Council Board, where he helps county officials deal with agricultural-related issues. Wade was also part of the Hemp Advisory Committee for the State of Florida.
An Obvious Disconnect
When asked about the challenges that Florida farmers are facing, Wade described a number of factors. To Wade, one important factor is the disconnect between what happens on the farm and what is understood by consumers and buyers.
The first issue, he explained, is that buyers often do not know about the challenges of growing produce. The evolution of the “fast food” industry – where consumers have had the good fortune of everything being available all the time – is a difficult expectation for farmers to meet.
“Good and bad has come out of fast food. We can feed our population more efficiently and on an exceptionally large scale; however, the convenience of fast food is contributing to a disconnect between what is being ordered and how that food is being sourced and produced. Trying to reconnect the consumers with their food source is one of my personal goals.”
The issue of food waste is a second large concern. “As it stands, a tremendous amount of fruits and vegetables are being thrown away because they are not aesthetically perfect. When I think about how many people could be fed nutritiously with this produce, it hurts my heart. It really breaks me.”
COVID-19, horrific as it continues to be, has been eye opening. “What I mean is that almost overnight, restaurants were closed and many farmers who typically supply to restaurants lost their largest customer base. At that point, people started cooking more at home and the farmers started offering boxes of fresh produce to the public. It didn’t take long for people to really get into the concept. So many people were talking about it. So many people started looking forward to driving over to their local farm and picking up their farm-fresh produce boxes. So many people got to meet the farmers and Cattlemen who pour their time, energy, and heart into feeding the community. I sincerely wish that we did not have to experience a pandemic – because it is awful – to make this connection but I do hope that this connection long survives COVID-19.”
Good Policy, Bad Policy
When it comes to food policy, Wade immediately pointed to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
NAFTA, a treaty entered into by the United States, Canada and Mexico was first created to eliminate tariff barriers to agriculture and help American farmers. However, Florida fruit and vegetable farmers have faced a number of challenges, especially when competing with Mexican produce companies as labor is cheaper in Mexico, environmental regulations are more lax, and the industry receives government subsidies.
Although farmers have gotten more recognition in the past few months, they are still facing an uphill battle. “There is a farmer hotline that doesn't stop ringing off the hook because farmers are at their wit's end. They're afraid that they are going to lose their farm; that they are going to lose their livelihood.”
This is another reason why connecting the consumers, the businesses and the policy makers to the farmers is important to Wade. “At the end of the day, by creating effective policies that are understood and supported by our communities will hopefully allow our farmers achieve their goals and thrive through positive change.”
When it comes to policy reform, Wade emphasizes the importance of listening to the farmers and being considerate of the unique conditions that each of them face in their respective growing regions because ‘one size, fits all’ is not necessarily the answer here. “Policies that are going to be implemented for all farmers across the United States likely need to have slight variations because every climate and every location is different. Listen to the farmers and give them a chance to speak. Let them articulate what their issues are. Bringing those policies together and developing an understanding that – for example – the same rules and regulations for California may not work in Florida is important and will go a long way.”
Making A Connection
For people who want to be more active and want to advocate for local farmers, Wade says that the first step is to get to know your local farmer.
“The best way to get started is by getting to know your local farmer. At first, it might be a little overwhelming because there are lots of moving parts on a farm and there's always something going on. But, for the local community to come into the farm and show interest makes most farmers very happy. Spend a little time and create that relationship. By forming that connection, I hope that community members will be inspired to advocate for policies that would better the food system in their local community.”
Another great place to begin those relationships is local fairs. “You can find them in every area around the state and it's a great chance to talk to farmers and get to know the farmer directly. Having that ability to meet people in person and answer their questions lets us begin that dialogue.”
If you are interested in connecting with Wade, you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whitworth Farms, Inc. Instagram: @whitworth_farms
Joy 4 Greens Website
Palm Beach County Agricultural Enhancement Council Website
Eastern Palm Beach County Farm Bureau Website
Urban Growers Community Economic Development Corporation (PIC) Website
Disclaimer: The views of the interviewee do not represent the views of the Florida Food Policy Council. We are a forum for the offering and sharing of information and encourage diversity and communication within the food system.