A new Farm-to-Table event being planned for September hopes to connect consumers and restaurateurs to local farmers so they can get the freshest, healthiest produce the Mid-Columbia has to offer.
The inaugural Mid-Columbia Farm-to-Table Symposium will be 12:30 – 6 p.m. Sept. 14 at the Richland Community Center. The event is being hosted and sponsored by the Cascade Harvest Coalition, the Northwest Regional Food Hub and the Washington State Department of Agriculture/U.S. Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.
The event is geared to local consumers, producers, distributors, health care professionals, school staff, chefs, retailers, sustainable food advocates and others interested in growing, distributing and buying local food, said Dani Smart, director of the Northwest Regional Food Hub. The event theme is “Grow local: Connecting local producers and the rest of us.”
The event is part of a series of Farm-to-Table trade meetings being held throughout the state, organized by the Cascade Harvest Coalition, sustainable Connections, Seattle Chef’s Collaborative and local community partners.
Smart said Mid-Columbia farmers produce a wide enough variety of products to create breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks and desserts and there is an increased demand for locally-sourced food, from restaurants, to schools to hospitals.
Supporting local producers provides more local jobs, fresher food and healthier meals, Smart said. In addition, more money stays in the local economy, supporting other jobs and businesses.
“By bringing together farmers, processors, distributors, retailers and others along the value chain, we develop market efficiencies and generate new sales,” said Mary Embleton, Cascade Harvest Coalition executive director. “In 2011, trade meetings created hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales of local products throughout the state.”
The event will include vendors and speakers who will share success stories and discuss challenges. Attendees will be able to explore institutional buying, find a farmer or buyer and learn about barriers and opportunities to making farm-to-table purchases and sales. Display space is available for agriculture support, community food and farm organizations and local businesses. Local producers were invited to set up display tables featuring their business and provide small samples of products to customers and other vendors. While networking and expanding a customer base is encouraged, product sales will not be allowed at the event.
The keynote speaker at the event will be Megan Foucht, marketing and membership coordinator for EcoTrust of Portland, Ore. Foucht will discuss the importance of growing local and the role food hubs can play in connecting local producers with area businesses, institutions and consumers.
Following the event, attendees and other community members and producers are invited to tour the NW Regional Food Hub. A dinner featuring local chefs using locally-sourced products will be held at the Hub following the event.
Cost for the symposium is $15 and pre-registration is recommended. Space is limited. To register or for more information, go to www.nwfoodhub.com or call 943-0220.