Saturday, November 23, 2013

Harvest Feastival – How to Plan a Successful Local Food Event

Are you passionate about the crops you grow or the livestock you raise? Why not shout it from the rooftops with a local food event. Four years ago, I teamed up with four women passionate about farming and food to do just that.  We came up with Harvest Feastival and this year successfully held our 4th annual event. Looking back it really has been a lot of fun and not that hard. So, here are some tips and recipes from our team to get you started on creating your own local food event.
1.    Build a team:  Our team is like-minded in purpose and includes people who are creative, connected and get things done. Look around your community to see who has planned successful events, who knows the local producers and food processors, who is a detail person and who knows everyone and can get them out to an event. Make sure they like to have fun, don’t take themselves too seriously and you will have an awesome team!
2.    Focus your ideas into a consistent theme:  At first we spent a lot of time defining our event and our overall goals.  This work up front really 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.
3.    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 several similar events in other communities to get the creative juices flowing. Many of those food events were in larger cities that have access to numerous chefs and restaurants that serve local food. This is not the reality in our city (YET!) so calling on local chefs and restaurants to prepare the food was not an option. We did discover, however, that we have access to some great cooks/caterers and the exhibition association has an excellent culinary team lead by chef Rob Hofer. What we saw as a potential weakness turned into one of our largest strengths.
4.    Choose a name: We chose Harvest Feastival. Harvest seemed like a no-brainer as our event takes place at the end of October, as harvest is winding down.  Further, we wanted to celebrate harvest and the bounty of our local foods with a feast.  So, we combined feast and festival to arrive at Feastival. Your event name should say what you are and be catchy enough to engage interest.
5.    Find the right partners: We were fortunate to partner with the Lloydminster 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 the celebrity ‘chefs’. Each food station is hosted by a local celebrity including - 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 accordingly.  Each farmer and food processor is able to promote their company at the food stations featuring their products.
6.    Get the word out: Our event is promoted through the local paper and radio stations. We put up posters around town. The exhibition also promotes it through their website and Facebook page. Local producers promote it to their clients. We sell tickets at Weir Veterinarian Clinic and The Root – a 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. We try to build on those kinds of synergies and make sure we also have great word of mouth pick up.
7.    Cross your t’s and dot your i’s: This includes making sure you have the right license to hold your event and that you follow food safety regulations. We have found it helpful to walk through the event through the eyes of someone who is attending to make sure we have thought of everything. We, also, leave out feedback forms on the tables and we review what worked and what didn’t after each event so we can improve the next year.
There are a few ideas to get you started! These recipes are from this year’s event and were created by chef Rob Hofer and his team at the Lloydminster Agricultural Exhibition Association.  They do an excellent job of taking the local ingredients we source and then turning them into a feast! Enjoy!

Rob’s Coq Au Vin
Here is Rob’s tasty version of the dish Julie Child’s made famous. For our event the chicken was supplied by Lower Shannon Farms, while the potatoes and onions came from Kathy’s Greenhouse
2 lbs chicken parts 1 kg
2 Tbsp canola oil 30 mL
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup chopped onions 250 mL
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup chopped mushrooms 250 mL
2 cups red wine 500 mL
3 Tbsp butter 45 mL
6 Tbsp flour 90 mL
pinch of nutmeg
1.    In a large saucepan, sear chicken parts in canola oil to brown the outside but not cooked through about 5 minutes.  You may need to do a few at a time to avoid overcrowding the saucepan. 
2.    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 2 cups (500 mL) water.  Cook for 20 minutes and then add wine.  Continue cooking for an additional 20 minutes.
3.    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
Bernice’s 7 Grain Stuffing.
Bernice is a whirling dervish in the kitchen. She is everywhere all at once magically spinning out dishes. Bernice’s first step in this recipe was to make the bread using 7-grain flour from New Life Organics. The Saskatoon berries and squash were supplied by Emjay’s farm.
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 cups chopped onion 500 mL
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp canola oil 30 mL
¼ cup fresh parsley 60 mL
salt and pepper to taste
12 cups fresh 7-grain bread crumbs 3 L
1 cup fresh or frozen Saskatoon berries 250 mL
1 cup cooked and cubed butternut squash 250 mL
1 cup chicken or turkey broth 250 mL
1.    In a saucepan, sauté 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.
2.    Add breadcrumbs, Saskatoons, squash and broth. Stir to combine.
3.    Use to stuff chicken or turkey or place in greased 11- x 7-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

Bev’s Quick and Easy Quinoa Salad
Bev is known as the queen of salads in the Exhibition’s kitchen. The quinoa for this salad was supplied by NorQuin, honey from The Queen Bee and camelina oil from Three Farmers.
1 cup quinoa 250 mL
2 cups water 500 mL
1 English cucumber , diced
1 cup chopped celery 250 mL
1 cup chopped onion 250 mL
1 cup chopped red pepper 250 mL
¼ cup apple cider vinegar 60 mL
¼ cup lemon juice 60  mL
2 Tbsp cup honey 30 mL
1/2 cup camelina oil 125 mL
1 tsp mustard powder 5 mL
salt and pepper to taste
1.       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.
2.       In large bowl, combine cooled quinoa, cucumber, celery, onion and red pepper.
3.       In a small bowl, combine vinegar, lemon juice, honey, camelina oil, mustard powder, salt and pepper. Pour over quinoa and vegetables. Toss well. Serve.
Source: Bev McCutcheon.

Bev’s Sweet Quinoa Salad with Fruit
Our quinoa was supplied by NorQuin, honey from The Queen Bee, strawberries from the Flying Rabbit Fruit Farm and canola oil from SaskCanola.
1 cup quinoa 250 mL
2 cups water 500 mL
2 cups strawberries 500 mL
1 cups Haskap berries 250 mL
1 cup cooked and cubed pumpkin 250 mL
3 Tbsp honey 45 mL
¼ cup lemon juice 60 mL
¾ cup canola oil 175 mL
Salt and pepper to taste
1.       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.
2.       In large bowl, combine cooled quinoa and berries.
3.       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’s Bannock
To Gertie making bannock is second nature. 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 cups all purpose flour 1.5 L
3 Tbsp baking powder 45 mL
1 Tbsp salt 15 mL
1 egg
1 cup canola oil 250 mL
2 ½ - 3 ½ cups luke warm water 625 – 875 mL
1.    Preheat the oven to 400 F (200 C). 
2.    In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add egg, canola oil and 2 ½ cups (625 mL) water. Mix to form a soft dough.  Add more water until a soft dough is formed. 
3.    Turn out onto a baking sheet. Form dough into a rectangle about 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick. Poke holes in the dough to allow steam escape.
4.    Use the top rack in the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. 
Source: Gertie Pahtayken

I had to add in these pictures!  Here is Rhonda from the Cheesiry sampling at her table. As well as The Root and Lower Shannon Farms have partnered to do a line of preserves! They featured their Wild Salsa and Jalapeno Jelly at Harvest Feastival this year! They are having too much fun. 

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