Farm-to-Fork Mission

Sponsored by Visit Central Florida

From grapefruit pie to pork belly wraps, fresh produce to hand-crafted coffee, a new destination marketing initiative aims to highlight Polk County’s rich, diverse food scene while transforming Polk County into a true farm to table destination. 

“Research shows that travelers are truly culinary pilgrims,” said Mark Jackson, the Director of Polk County Tourism and Sports Marketing (PCTSM), the county’s tourism bureau. “They want to find new places, enjoy new experiences, and be the first to share them on social media. We feel that Polk County is the perfect market for these folks.

Emulating other successful programs around the nation, the Polk County Culinary Initiative aims to bridge the gap between producers and proprietors whenever possible, highlighting both aspects of Polk County.

To Jackson, highlighting Polk County’s history as a food producers while marketing it as a culinary destination is long overdue. 

“This isn’t anything new – farm to fork existed long before we put a name to it,” said Jackson. “All we’re doing is highlighting what we have to offer. At the same time, we have a generation growing up that is removed from farm life. We need to re-educate the public. Farmers are more than just a need, they are the cornerstone on which our society is built.”

With its unique heritage of cattle, citrus and agriculture, Polk’s food scene may have had a humble beginning but soon stretched past its borders. From the blending of ethnic heritages working the land to its historic influx of travelers due to the railroad and other industries, Polk County’s flavors defy regional definitions. That unique blend even went to infinity and beyond, when Moon Soup from historic Chalet Suzanne found its way to the moon. 

“There’s no reason why the food scene in Polk County has to be a best-kept secret,” said Jackson. “Just like any recipe, success at the end will be judged by how well the ingredients blended. We hope to help craft a synergistic program that will win on every front, creatively and financially.”

After hosting gatherings between restauranteurs, farmers and others to gauge Polk County’s current farm-to-fork inventory, PCTSM partnered with Destroyer Media and Marketing on Good Food Polk, a website aimed at increasing local food scene awareness. After some in-market fine-tuning, PCTSM will add this arrow to their quiver of outreaches to key visitation markets around the world. 

“Our research shows that travelers still crave authentic experiences in authentic destinations,” said Kris Keprios, the Senior Tourism Sales and Marketing Manager for PCTSM. “We are blessed that, with our farms and with our food scene, we already have both. By meeting with producers and providers, we’ll learn more about what we have to offer. Then we’ll do what we do best – we’ll tell the world about it.” 

A visit to the annual Ag Deputy Luncheon, hosted by the Polk County Farm Bureau, quickly generated the type of results PCTSM is looking for. 

“A conversation with a farmer led to a story idea. A story idea became a pitch to the media,” said Keprios. “Now the area knows that we’re more than citrus – avocados have been added to the mix. The more we learn, the better we can tell the story of Polk County’s food scene.”

The next step in the quest to turn the county into a true farm to fork destination is bringing farmers and producers together with local restaurants. That will happen on August 15, when PCTSM holds the first Polk Farm to Fork Conference at Harmony Haven Events. PCTSM plans numerous such events, but this first one will be key in moving the initiative forward.  

“Whenever you start a project like this, you immediately realize how little you know,” said Keprios. “Meetings like this will help us explain our initiative, while also expanding the width and breadth of our knowledge concerning Polk County farms and restaurants.”

Farm to table or farm to fork promotes serving food grown locally and seasonally at area restaurants. While the movement may have started on the West Coast, it has since expanded well beyond California and Colorado. According to a survey by the National Restaurant Association, four of the top 10 trends in the business at the moment are related to local food production.  

“Sacramento in California is where I first encountered it,” said Jackson. “They expanded the program all the way into the Golden 1 Center, home of the Sacramento Kings, as well as UC Davis Medical Center. In fact, the two are in a race to see which can become the largest farm-to-fork food service in the city.”

For further information, or to RSVP for the August 15 event, contact Elizabeth Lineberger at, or call Kris Keprios at (863) 551-4750.

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