One bite at a time: Edible teachings in the midst of Oregon bounty

July 2016 Posted in Food & Drink
Diggin’ Roots Farm Pitchfork to Plate dinner is held out in a field, family style.

Diggin’ Roots Farm Pitchfork to Plate dinner is held out in a field, family style.

By Melissa Wagoner

The events are so much more than a meal.

They are a celebration of local cuisine. A way to educate people about how their food is grown and to explore new ways to prepare it.

And the events help raise money for nonprofit organizations.

This summer, community members have the opportunity to see for themselves what takes place at a farm-to-table event.

There will be five dinners taking place around the Willamette Valley.

The first dinner, on July 9 at The Oregon Garden, is not only a celebration of local cuisine, but a fundraiser supporting Marion-Polk Food Share.

Farm-to-table events

The Oregon Garden
879 West Main St., Silverton
Benefits Marion-Polk Foodshare
Saturday, July 9, 5:30 p.m.
Tickets: $95
Three courses,
wine and auction

EZ Orchards
5504 Hazelgreen Road NE, Salem
Saturday, July 23, Aug. 27, 5:30 p.m.
Tickets: $90
Five courses with wine or cider

Diggin’ Roots Farm
9997 S Wildcat Road, Molalla
Saturday, Aug. 13, 5 p.m.
Tickets: $135
Four to five courses with wine
Benefits Oregon Tilth
Sunday, Aug. 14, 5 p.m.
Tickets: $175
Four to five courseswith wine

“One hundred percent of the proceeds from the event will go directly to the Food Share and will support the work that we do to feed people in our community,” Heather McPherson, Food Share’s marketing and communications manager said. “Attending this type of an event may not be the way that everyone supports their local charity, but we are confident that those who choose to attend will enjoy the evening and know that they are making a difference.”

Marion-Polk Food Share partners with more than 100 organizations, including Silverton Area Community Aid, providing emergency food for thousands of people every month and supporting programs whose goal is to address the origin of hunger within communities.

The event will kick-off with wine and a silent auction on a secluded patio, then move to the Grand Hall for an elegant, three-course dinner prepared by Oregon Garden Chef Sam Caldwell.

“The Oregon Garden is the perfect spot for a unique farm-to-table event,” McPherson said. “The Garden itself is a beautiful example of how lush and fertile the Willamette Valley is and it is also located in the heart of Oregon farm land.”

On July 23, local farm and market EZ Orchards will hold the first of two dinners in their annual Farm to Fork series; the second taking place Aug. 27.

“Farm to Fork was the brainchild of owner John Zielinski,” EZ Orchards Office Manager Erin Detrant said. “Wanting to capture the summer’s bounty and allow guests to see the beauty of our orchards, he decided to pair up with local chefs to create wonderful dinners al fresco.”

The evenings will each begin with hors d’ oeuvres and wine or cider in the lavender garden near the market and end with a five-course meal amongst the apple trees in the orchard.

“Before dessert, guests are encouraged to get up and stretch their legs and stroll through the surrounding apple and pear orchards. As the evening comes to a close, guests will stroll back through the orchards on a candle lit path while the sun sets. Truly a magical evening,” Detrant said.

Because both dinners will take place at the height of the produce season nearly all of the dinners’ ingredients will be sourced from the Zielinski farm or from farms nearby. That includes the cider, much of which is crafted from the trees serving as backdrop for the dinners.

On Aug. 13 and 14, there are two dinners organized by Pitchfork to Plate and hosted by Diggin’ Roots Farm. The second dinner will benefit Oregon Tilth, a certifier and advocate for organic agriculture in Oregon.

“Since day one, Plate and Pitchfork has made an effort to support non-profit organizations that are committed to solving Oregon’s hunger problem, conserving our environment and supporting farmers,” founder and event producer Erika Polmar said. “We’ve supported Oregon Tilth for more than a decade with fundraising and friend-raising.”

Polmar met Diggin’ Roots Farm owners Conner Voss and Sarah Brown, who is also an Education Director for Oregon Tilth, several years ago when they volunteered at another Pitchfork to Plate Dinner benefiting Oregon Tilth, and has kept in contact with them ever since.

“You’d be hard pressed to find people who are working as hard as these two but never cease to find joy in the toughest of days.  Their produce is amazing. The farm is beautiful. And the knowledge they impart to our guests is astounding,” Polmar explained.

The dinners at Diggin’ Roots Farm will begin with an appetizer and wine reception. Then guests will take a tour of the farm and learn about the organic farming practices used.

“The tour concludes in the ‘dining room’ that spot in the field where we’ve set tables with white linens, flowers, candles and created a field kitchen for the chefs,” Polmar said. “Our dinners are truly in the middle of a field. Last year we were between corn, squash and sunflowers.”

Both meals will be four to five courses, paired with wine, and served family style with all of the ingredients sourced locally.

Polmar, who has been creating these farm-centered meals since 2003, hopes that her guests will come away from her events “understanding and appreciating that how you eat impacts your health, the health of your local economy and the health of the environment… You could learn about those things by reading scholarly documents or attending lectures, but we think having an experience where learning is practically a passive activity makes a great impact – and it’s much more fun,” she said.

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