Farms draw­ing din­ers to en­joy home-grown food

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

CAM­BRIDGE, Ver­mont — What was once a smat­ter­ing of farms of­fer­ing ex­pen­sive din­ners within view of the fields where the food was raised has sprouted into pop­u­lar sum­mer and fall events that run the gamut from mul­ti­course din­ners to weekly burger nights at farms across the coun­try.

Th­ese farm feasts are pop­ping up from Cal­i­for­nia to Ver­mont and are part of the grow­ing agri­tourism move­ment. Din­ers en­joy lo­cally pro­duced foods; farm­ers sup­ple­ment their in­come.

“It makes you ap­pre­ci­ate farm­ers in a dif­fer­ent way. And you can’t beat the food,” said Bar­bara O’Con­nell, of Ard­s­ley, New York, who with her fam­ily re­cently at­tended a farm din­ner for a sec­ond year in a row at Val­ley Dream Farm in Cam­bridge, Ver­mont.

They were among the 60 peo­ple seated on hay bales around two long ta­bles on a clear hot evening. A neigh­bor’s cows chomped on grass across the road, and an oc­ca­sional truck passed by on the ru­ral road pulling trail­ers of freshly cut hay.

The feast in­cluded a salad of let­tuces, kale and blue­ber­ries; maple mus­tard chicken; tiny new pota­toes; grilled zuc­chini and sum­mer squash; and home­made vanilla ice cream with maple syrup. The din­ner — $65 for adults, $39 for chil­dren un­der 10 — came af­ter a hay wagon tour of the lush green fields where the or­ganic pro­duce is grown.

At least five farms now of­fer reg­u­lar farm din­ners in Ver­mont. The pop­u­lar­ity of farm din­ners has also grown in the Mid­west, said Bob Be­nen­son, spokesman for the non­profit Fam­i­lyFarmed, which works with farm­ers and food entrepreneurs to help grow their busi­nesses.

“By us­ing th­ese din­ners to draw peo­ple down to a farm, it serves to ed­u­cate them, en­lighten them more about sus­tain­able agri­cul­ture prac­tices and hope­fully, at the end of it, they go back to wher­ever, Chicago, the sub­urbs, and they start shop­ping more at farm­ers mar­kets and things like that,” he said.

Din­ers gen­er­ally must pre­reg­is­ter, and many of the farms don’t have liquor li­censes. Cus­tomers can bring their own bot­tles of wine or beer at some. Farms that do of­fer booze or pair­ings of wine or beer with meals are pricier; one starts at more than $200 per per­son.

The din­ners can also be culi­nary feats. Gra­nor Farm in Three Oaks, Michi­gan, has started run­ning pe­ri­odic week­end meals this sum­mer. A re­cent menu in­cluded cod­dled egg with gar­lic scapes, mush­room cream sauce and fry bread; and brown but­ter and pork belly with wheat ber­ries, rhubarb and fen­nel.

A mul­ti­course meal costs $75. The 16-per­son din­ners, which run un­til Novem­ber, sold out in July.

“We are see­ing re­peat cus­tomers,” said Chef Abra Berens, who said the farm is hop­ing to ex­pand the din­ner events to other sea­sons. “The best com­pli­ment I’m getting is that a group will come to a din­ner and then book sev­eral dates later in the sea­son.”

/ ASSOCIATED PRESS LISA RATHKE

Jacki O'Con­nor serves din­ers at a weekly farm din­ner at Val­ley Dream Farm in Cam­bridge, Ver­mont, on Aug 1.

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