Feast of Fields – Okanagan Abundance
On Sunday, the much anticipated Feast of Fields, the 5th annual event, took place at Little Church organic Farm on Gordon Drive here in Kelowna. The event is organized by Farmfolk Cityfolk, a not-for-profit organization that works to cultivate local, sustainable food system. Their projects are organized to provide access to & protection of foodlands; support local growers and producers and engage communities in the celebration of local foods (http://www.farmfolkcityfolk.ca/).Feast of Fields takes place in the Okanagan, Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island.
The event extends over 4 hours at a farmer’s field. Attendees are bused into the area (parking would be an issue otherwise) and upon arrival are handed a glass of vino and a white linen napkin. With those provisions in hand, as well as a brochure outlining the location of the exhibitors, you are free to wander around the 13 tents set up on the farm in any order you wish, tasting, drinking, photographing and talking to the who’s who in the food and agriculture world in the Okanagan. The event is an annual fund raiser for Farmfolk Cityfolk, offering attendees a taste of the very best from BC chefs, farmers, vintners, food artisans, fishers, brewers and distillers from across the province. Feast of Fields goal is to highlight the connection between farmer and chef, field and table and is “a gastronomic journey towards a sustainable, local food system”. In layman terms, you see how chefs use locally produced foodstuff to create fabulous culinary creations. You taste wines made from local vineyards, cheeses made in local creameries, discover where food stores get their local products and get information about various food organization and their activities in the community. A very worthwhile event in support of local agriculture and food production.
Okanagan agriculture goes back more than 100 years. Beginning as an apple orchard land back in mid to late 1800’s it has slowly diversified and expanded to include a variety of stone fruits after an irrigation system was built here in the 1930’s. Currently the Okanagan produces a large percentage of Canada apples, pears, peaches, plums and prunes, most of its apricots and half of of the cherries. The first vineyards were planted here at the mission of Father Pandosy back in 1860 but it was only in the 1930’s that the first commercial winery was established. Wine industry begun to flourish in the 1970’s and I believe the valley is now home to more than 200 wineries. Driving around the Okanagan today it is clear that vineyards are taking over and many orchards have now been replaced with vineyards. I remember driving through Kelowna a hundred years ago (uhmm, uhmm) when it was mostly orchards, small farm houses and bungalows along narrow city streets. The place has change considerably over the years and I must say that even though the quaint small town feel may be gone, I love what it has become. Change is inevitable and I think the farmers, vineyard and winery owners, chefs, food professionals and food enthusiasts have kept the integrity of the valley and today we have a beautiful place to live in and fabulous local produce to cook with and enjoy, readily available directly from the producers and in local food stores. And it’s no longer only Kelowna, you can go anywhere in the Okanagan, from Peachland to Penticton, Oliver and Osoyoos, and you’ll find great food, farm to table produce, and fabulous wineries and restaurants to go back to again and again.
This was my first time attending the event and I was not disappointed. In this context, the who’s who in the food, restaurant and agriculture business in the Okanagan gathered yesterday on a farm-field at Little Church Organic Farm to show their stuff to wandering foodies, consumers and food professionals alike. The event was well organize and well attended. Great wine and beautiful and delicious food were provided in unlimited quantities. The organizers even anticipated the need for water and shade and provided both at the several tents that were set out on the farm. I went to the event with my friend and food blogger Valerie of morethanburnttoast.com who, it seems, knows everybody in the food business in the OK (read her post about the event here). Always fun to go with Val to food events. Together we ran into foodie friends, local chefs, farmers and entrepreneurs; ate, drank (a little, it was too hot), took photos and talked food and planned future local culinary excursions. We even passed (I think) a blind food-tasting challenge put on by Growing Chefs under Tent #6, a pilot program in which local professional chefs offer gardening and cooking program to students in elementary schools in Kelowna (was it purple cauliflower? I think it was:).
The local, sustainable agriculture, farm-to-table movement is clearly supported by local chefs in the Okanagan. It is clear from the foods we saw and tasted that local chefs rely on very fresh ingredients that are locally grown, often purchased by the chefs in local markets and from individual small producers and sometimes even grown in their own gardens. Although some of the items were more labour intensive (that’s what chefs are for:), most were simply prepared and presented with emphasis on local availability and freshness of the ingredients. The regionally inspired food was beautiful and delicious and serves as a testament to our local chefs commitment to the valley. Events like this one are instrumental in nurturing collaboration between producers and consumers in the local economy that makes up the Okanagan agricultural world. It helps increase awareness of what is available, where to source it and how to use it for both professionals and home cooks alike. Ultimately, it connects us with where our food comes from. This food system is built on relationship between producers and consumers and this is what an event like this brings about.
So who was there? Everyone, it seems. You can check the Farmfolk Cityfolk website for complete list of food, drinks, marketplace and community participants. Val and I are planning to visit some of the farms and cheese makers whose products we saw and tasted at the event.
Here is a photo report of some of the food and wine on display under the tents. The image on the right corresponds to the producer’s name on the left.
Enjoy, and come to the event next year.