The Farmers Dinner: A Story In Every BiteFri 27 Dec 2013
Story by Keith Sarasin
I can still remember driving down that dirt road and parking outside the old farm stand in Hollis, New Hampshire. The journey that brought me there began with frustration and remorse. For years, I had worked as a chef for private parties, restaurants and other establishments, and I always wondered why the food I was preparing came from so far away. It seemed like none of the ingredients I was using came from local sources, and when I asked why this was the case I always got the same answer - prices for local produce and other foods were simply too high.
Making Powerful Connections
I knew that there were plenty of local farmers in my area of New Hampshire and this answer bothered me, so I decided to take matters into my own hands. I spoke with local farmers and quickly learned that many of them struggle to maintain their way of life and stay in business in the modern supermarket-driven culture. After hearing their stories and realizing the quality of food available in my area, I wanted to help connect them with local buyers, but most of them thought there was simply no interest in what they were producing. Thus, The Farmers Dinner was born.
Each Farmers Dinner starts with me going to local farms, meeting the farmers, and seeing what’s in season. From there we find farmers who are willing to speak about their products at the dinner and talk about how their businesses benefit the local economy. The Farmers Dinner is truly centered around community. We set up the dining room with a home-style seating plan and have guest speakers interact with the guests between courses. The menu for the dinner is crafted using produce that is in season and picked fresh. The event gives local diners and consumers the ability to meet the people who are growing and preparing their food, and those who are interested receive detailed recipes and a list of local area farms that produce the ingredients needed to make our gourmet dishes at home.
Sharing Real Stories
For the last two years I have been on a mission to bring the stories of these farmers to the diners in my community. In June of 2012 the first Farmers Dinner was held in Nashua, New Hampshire at Saffron Bistro. The concept was simple- bring in local farmers, make a delicious meal out of their produce, and let them tell their stories. I wanted the dinner to bridge the connection between the food and the farmers, and I believed that if the community could meet the folks growing their food they would be more inclined to support them. To my delight the first Farmers Dinner completely sold out, and the community did indeed embrace the local farmers who participated! Word of the event quickly spread, and soon the community asked me to organize another dinner. Our second event took place in September 2012 and sold out even faster than the previous one.
Giving Local Farmers A Voice
Since this whole project began, The Farmers Dinner has run eight different events in various cities and all of them have completely sold out. Our community has given the local farmers a voice and embraced them in a way I never thought possible. Through these dinners I have been able to work with a variety of businesses and restaurants, helping them transition to local products and networking them with farmers in their area.
We are excited for the future as we continue to educate our community and others nearby on all the fantastic ways we can help local farmers, and enjoy the quality products that they work so hard to put on our tables.
About the Author: Keith Sarasin was a chef and local “foodie” for years before founding The Farmers Dinner. Currently he spends his time running farm-to-table dinners, building relationships with farmers and learning about sustainable agriculture. Check out the Farmers Dinner on Facebook, or online.
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