Celebrate local food – plan a local community food event

Producers who want to show the world their passions for the crops and livestock they raise should consider demonstrating it first-hand at local food events.

Four years ago, I joined four women excited about farming and food to do just that. We came up with Harvest Feastival and this year, we held our fourth annual event.

Looking back, it has been fun and not that hard.

Here are some tips and recipes from our team to get you started on creating a local food event.

Build a team

Our team is like-minded in purpose and includes people who are creative and connected and get things done. Look around your community to see who has planned successful events, knows local producers and food processors in addition to someone who is a detail person and can get people out to an event. Make sure these people like to have fun and don’t take themselves too seriously.

Focus your ideas into a consistent theme: We spent much time defining our event and goals. This work keeps us on track and even as we grow, it allows us to assess new ideas against our core focus. Every decision from decorating to music to venue is made easier when we put it up against a consistent theme.

Be realistic about your strengths and weaknesses: Once you have determined your goal and defined your event, the next step is to figure out what you can do well.

Build on your team’s strengths and empower each member to take on a job they love and will do well at. We also attended similar sized events in other communities to get the creative juices flowing.

We discovered that we have access to some great cooks/caterers and the exhibition association has an excellent culinary team lead by chef Rob Hofer.

Choose a name

We chose Harvest Feastival. Harvest seemed like a no-brainer be-cause our event takes place in late October when harvest is winding down. We also wanted to celebrate harvest and the bounty of our local foods with a feast. Your event name should say what you are and be catchy enough to engage interest.

Find the right partners: We were fortunate to partner with the Lloyd-minster Agricultural Exhibition Association. Their goals meshed with ours to the point that they supply the venue and the cooks and staff to run most of the event.

This left the rest of us with the job of connecting with the farmers, food processors and enthusiastic foodies. Another helpful partnership is with our volunteers, including celebrity chefs.

Each food station is hosted by the mayor, local MLAs, radio personalities and other well-known citizens. They serve the food with help from our student volunteers, who receive volunteer hours for one of their classes.

The other key partnerships are with the local farmers and food processors. In August and September, we contact them to see what is available for our event and then plan our menu and food stations.

Each farmer and food processor is able to promote their company at the food stations featuring their products.

Get the word out

Our event is promoted through the local paper, radio stations and posters placed around town. The exhibition also promotes it through its website and Facebook page and local producers promote it to their clients.

We sell tickets at a local veterinary clinic and restaurant that uses local ingredients. We sell tables to local businesses and groups.

One local farm family buys two tables and invites all the retired farmers who help them out during harvest.

Cross your Ts and dot your Is

This includes making sure you have the right licence to hold your event and that you follow food safety regulations. Walk through the event through the eyes of a participant to make sure you have thought of everything. We also leave feedback forms on the tables and review what worked and what didn’t after each event.

Here are a few ideas to get you started. These recipes are from this year’s event and were created by chef Hofer and his team at the Lloydminster Agricultural Exhibition Association.

Bernice Topilko’s seven grain stuffing

Bernice Topilklo is a whirling dervish in the kitchen. Her first step in this recipe was to make the bread using seven grain flour from New Life Organics. Emjay’s Prairie Berries supplied the saskatoon berries and squash.

  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 c. chopped onion 500 mL
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp. canola oil 30 mL
  • 1/4 c. fresh parsley 60 mL
  • 12 c. fresh 7-grain bread crumbs 3 L
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 c. fresh or frozen saskatoon berries 250 mL
  • 1 c. cooked and cubed butternut squash 250 mL
  • 1 c. chicken or turkey broth 250 mL

In a saucepan, saute celery, onion and garlic in canola oil until onions begin to soften. Add parsley, salt and pepper.
Continue cooking until parsley is wilted. Transfer to a large bowl.
Add breadcrumbs, saskatoons, broth and squash. Stir to combine.
Use to stuff chicken or turkey or place in greased 11 x seven inch (2 L) glass baking dish; cover and bake at 400 F (200 C) for 20 minutes; uncover and bake until top is crisp, about 10 minutes. Source: Bernice Topilko.

Rob Hofer’s coq au vin

Here is Hofer’s tasty version of the dish Julia Child made famous. For our event, Lower Shannon Farms supplied the chicken, while the potatoes and onions came from Kathy’s Greenhouse.

  • 2 lb. chicken parts 1 kg
  • 2 tbsp. canola oil 30 mL
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 c. chopped onions 250 mL
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 c. chopped mushrooms 250 mL
  • 2 c. red wine 500 mL
  • 3 tbsp. butter 45 mL
  • 6 tbsp. flour 90 mL
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 6 c. all purpose flour 1.5 L
  • 3 tbsp. baking powder 45 mL
  • 1 tbsp. salt 15 mL
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c. canola oil 250 mL
  • 2 1/2 – 3 1/2 c. lukewarm water 625 – 875 mL

In a large saucepan, sear chicken parts in canola oil to brown the outside but not cook through, about five minutes. You may need to do a few at a time to avoid overcrowding the saucepan.
Preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C). Place chicken parts in a roaster. Season with salt and pepper. Add onions, garlic and mushrooms. Add two cups (500 mL) water. Cook for 20 minutes and then add wine. Continue cooking for an additional 20 minutes.
While chicken is cooking, prepare a roux by melting butter in a saucepan. Then add flour and whisk until mixture is thickened.
Add a pinch of nutmeg. Then add the roux moisture to the chicken and stir to incorporate into the sauce. Cook for another 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked and sauce is thickened. Serve. Source: Rob Hofer.

McCutcheon’s sweet quinoa salad with fruit

Strawberries came from the Flying Rabbit Fruit Farm and canola oil from SaskCanola.

  • 1 c. quinoa 250 mL
  • 2 c. water 500 mL
  • 2 c. strawberries 500 mL
  • 1 c. haskap berries 250 mL
  • 1 c. cooked and cubed pumpkin 250 mL

In a fine sieve, rinse quinoa under running water. Transfer to medium saucepan and add water.
Bring to boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat and simmer, covered for 12–15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Cool.

Vinaigrette

  • 3 tbsp. honey 45 mL
  • 1/4 c. lemon juice 60 mL
  • 3/4 c. canola oil 175 mL
  • salt and pepper to taste

In large bowl, combine cooled quinoa and berries.
In a small bowl, combine honey, lemon juice, canola oil, salt and pepper. Pour over quinoa and vegetables. Toss well. Serve. Source: Bev McCutcheon.

Gertie Pahtayken’s bannock

Making bannock is second nature to Pahtayken. She cooks by feel, smell and taste: tasting the flour mixture to see if there is enough baking powder, feeling the dough to know when she has added enough water and smelling the dough baking to know when it is done.

  • 6 c. all purpose flour 1.5 L
  • 3 tbsp. baking powder 45 mL
  • 1 tbsp. salt 15 mL
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c. canola oil 250 mL
  • 2 1/2 – 3 1/2 c. lukewarm water 625 – 875 mL

Preheat the oven to 400 F (200 C).
In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add egg, canola oil and 2 1/2 cups (625 mL) water. Mix to form a soft dough. Add more water until a soft dough is formed.
Turn out onto a baking sheet. Form dough into a rectangle about one inch (2.5 cm) thick. Poke holes in the dough to allow steam escape.
Use the top rack in the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Source: Gertie Pahtayken.

Dorothy Sandercock is a home economist in the agrifood trade and former greenhouse grower from Lloydminster, Sask. She writes a blog at http://prairiekitchencompanion.blogspot.ca. Contact: food@producer.com.

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