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Mary Lahammer Hosts Farm Fresh Road Trip

After years of doing live news reporting from the state capitol, Mary Lahammer is adept at one-takes for her TPT show, Farm Fresh Road Trip.

TPT’s Mary Lahammer may be better known for her savvy political coverage on the Twin Cities Public Radio television station, but local growers and restaurateurs also are on the other side of her mic, thanks to her TV show "Farm Fresh Road Trip."

A collaboration between TPT, the Minnesota Farmers Union and Minnesota Grown, the show’s first episode aired October 1, 2013. So far, they’re only producing one show a year. “I would love to do more, once we figure out the funding,” she says. 

The fourth installment in the series is airing October 1 at 7 p.m. But don’t worry if you miss it, there are several repeat airings, plus it can be streamed online on the TPT.org website. 

The collaboration started years earlier when the MN Farmers Union asked her to host a show about the farm-to-table movement, at the Minnesota State Fair, and they found after a few tries that it would be easier to move the show indoors to the restaurants, and not have to control Mother Nature.

“The concept is that we don’t eat this show in a day,” she points out. Lahammer and a small crew travel the state, profiling a breakfast, lunch and dinner venue, plus a segment on wine or spirits. After a chef prepares the dish on camera, Lahammer and the farmers who grew the food sit down to enjoy the dish and talk. 

Ironically, Lahammer admits, the first couple of years of the show she didn’t eat meat. It wasn’t a political or dietary decision, she says, but because she had grown up eating cheap cuts of meat. So the show has broadened her exposure to quality food, as well as that of the viewers. 

When asked if it was difficult to learn to eat on camera, she replies that she’s been filmed with bone marrow running down her face, so she's no longer self-conscious. She figures if Julia Child could mess up in the kitchen, she could, too. “I loved Julia Child,” Lahammer says, adding that what people loved about Child was that she was real; she would mess up on camera and keep going.

Part of the fun of doing the shows, Lahammer says, is getting to try her hand at the skill the chef is demonstrating. But as evident in the clip of the show we watched on the editing monitor in the studio, they’re not always so eager to turn over their knives. “Chefs like to do prep,” she says. “It’s hard to get them turn it over.”

If you binge watch the episodes, what you’ll notice is that Lahammer always wears cream or off-white lace. “I didn’t want my wardrobe to compete with the food,” she points out. After years of wearing high heels to track down news at the capitol, she’s now relegated her feet to flats, but she makes up for the lack of high fashion by wearing boots —“tall boots,” she adds. “I’m a little country; a little rock ‘n’ roll.”

The shows are shot with two cameras and one take. “I work in live TV so I’m not used to two takes,” she says.

Lahammer grew up trailing around after her father, Gene Lahammer, a longtime capitol reporter for Associated Press. She knew from an early age that political reporting is what she was born to do. The farm-to-table movement is also near and dear to her heart because her extended family owns a family farm in South Dakota. “It gives me credibility,” she says. 

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