The 6th Annual Okanagan Feast of Fields event happens on Aug 17th from 1-4pm at the Okanagan Lavender and Herb Farm.
I caught up with the producer of the event, Alison Love, via email to find out more information about this popular event that showcases over 50 restaurants and wineries in one sunny Okanagan afternoon.
RD: How does Feast of Fields support FarmFolk, CityFolk?
AL: Feast of Fields is the major fundraiser for FFCF. Feast of Fields highlights the connections between farmer and chef, field and table, and farm folks and city folks. The chefs/wineries/breweries etc all donate the food, wine etc towards the event as well as amazing items for the Silent Auction.
RD: FarmFolk, CityFolk Society is a well established not-for-profit with over 20 years of history in B.C., can you tell me a little about the organization and why they're working to build sustainable local food systems?
AL: Established in 1993 Farm Folk CityFolk is a not-for-profit society working to cultivate local, sustainable food systems across British Columbia. We are supported by grant-making foundations, private donors, volunteers and by funds raised at our annual Feast of Fields events in Metro Vancouver, on Vancouver Island and in the Okanagan. The funds we raise support our work both within these communities and across BC.
In the Okanagan our Helping Farmers program offers resources for farmers looking to expand their business, produce food more sustainably, and gain access to land and capital. Our farm mentor-ship program for young farmers is offered in partnership with Sunshine Farm in Kelowna. Additionally, through our partnership with Young Agrarians, we host young farmer mixers and linking land workshops to support the next generation of young farmers.
For local food businesses we host Meet Your Maker, an annual business networking event bringing together local food producers and local food buyers to build business relationships and strengthen the local food economy within the Okanagan.
To help support and strengthen this market for local food, we host our annual Feast of Fields fundraiser and local food celebration. Held on a different farm each year, this event helps promote local farm businesses and the chefs who share dedicated relationships with these farmers. Since 2009 we have hosted events in Summerland at Valentine Farm, Okanagan Falls at Brock Farm, in Naramata at Van Westen Family Vineyards & Orchards, in Lake Country at Claremont Ranch Organics, in Kelowna at Little Church Organics, and in 2014 we will be at Okanagan Lavender & Herb Farm, in Kelowna. Now in its 6th year the Okanagan Feast of Fields shares a rich history with the Metro Vancouver Feast, now in its 20th year and the Vancouver Island Feast now in its 17th year. Feast of Fields is a great way to also promote the region to tourists with over 25% of the Okanagan Feast guests coming from outside the region.
FarmFolk CityFolk produces a bi-annual magazine that focuses on issues around local food and agriculture and is distributed to engaged and concerned farmers, chef's, activists, and politicians throughout the Okanagan. For over 20 years, FarmFolk CityFolk has engaged communities and businesses in support of sustainable agriculture and the celebration of local food.
RD: Okanagan Herb & Lavender Farm was on the vanguard of agritourism in the Central Okanagan, inviting people onto the farm for tours long before others were doing the same. What is it that you like about this venue and their approach to the farm-to-table movement?
AL: Not only is the Okanagan Lavender & Herb Farm a wonderful example of agritourism in our community, it is still a family farm. it's a beautiful location with sweeping views of the Lake and they work with many of our chef participants by providing lavender for some of Sandrine's creations (Sandrine French Pastry & Chocolate) and I know it's behind the bar at RauDZ Regional Table for some of their signature cocktails. They work hard to share their passion for farming, although maybe not what we think of as traditional farming, there is no livestock or bins of vegetables, but lavender is their "produce". Okanagan Lavender & Herb Farm is serving Italian sodas with house made syrups and rose water meringues made from their own Damask Rose Water!
RD: There are so many amazing restaurants and little eateries in the Central Okanagan at the moment, and obviously the wine industry is establishing an international reputation for the quality of our products, what role do you see this event playing in the burgeoning food mecca we're developing here?
AL: Great food goes with great award winning wines and now the Okanagan is also being recognized as a culinary destination. This summer alone has seen a parade of food writers, bloggers from around the world descending on the Okanagan and discovering what we locals already know - we've got world class restaurants to go with our world class wines. Feast of Fields is a great event to show it all off and we regularly have many tourists who purchase tickets to this event. Taking a look at the EventBrite ticket site, I can see Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver addresses who have snapped up these limited tickets for this culinary celebration.
This year at Okanagan Feast of Fields, we are excited to showcase some of these new restaurants and eateries in the valley - Liquidity Bistro from Liquidity Wines, Blu Saffron from Volcanic Hills, Smoke & Oak from Wild Goose Winery, Salted Brick, the new charcuterie spot on Bernard will all be at Feast of Fields. We are also hosting some food writers along with Tourism Kelowna at the event as well, so we're spreading the news of our food scene one bite at a time.
RD: What are the parameters you give your industry professionals in setting up their tastings?
AL: These chefs who are participating are all professionals and already living and breathing the supporting local philosophy. We ask that they showcase a fresh local seasonal ingredient in their own particular style, while at the same time keeping it no-waste. We ask that they serve it on a cracker, a piece of bread or that it be self-sufficient as we do not want hundreds of paper plates and cutlery scattered around the field at the conclusion of the event. When each guest arrives they are given a white linen napkin and a wine glass to use over the course of the afternoon. When they depart, they return both to our volunteers and we leave the space as clean as it was when we arrived. The menus are starting to arrive and all sound delicious, duck slider with red currant onion chutney with apple slaw (anything more Okanagan than apple?) , a crostini with house-roasted 'kadhai' spiced local tomato sauce, a Povencal Nougat with local honey and lavender, a pork & chorizo skewer with sour cherry gastrique, and each dish is paired with a wine from our wine participants.