Raises over $30,000 at food festival
RUTLAND—The Vermont Farmers Food Center’s second annual Harvest Fest fed and entertained over 300 area residents and visitors in Farmers’ Hall on West Street Sunday, Aug. 14, in a successful renewal of the fundraiser and celebration that began last year.
While the tallies were not quite complete at the time of publication, with both expenses and donations still coming in, Greg Cox, president of the Food Center and its driving force behind the VFFC’s beginnings four years ago, said, “Between sponsorships, donations, ticket sales and auction items our hope is that our annual dinner-auction benefit will raise around $30,000, which will help VFFC continue to upgrade the Farmers’ Hall and move forward on other infrastructure needs within our agricultural community.”
The event raised about $14,000 last year, its first year.
“I’m thrilled with the support shown for the center and local agriculture, as evidenced by the turnout. I’m confident the number of guests and the overall proceeds will double that of the first event in 2015,” Cox continued. “It will help us to move forward with our development plan, particularly the food storage and aggregation center that is the next major phase of the project,” Cox added.
Cox’s enthusiasm was seconded from a different perspective by local resident Theresa Haywood. “We’re happy with the items we bid on and won last night and we had a great time,” she said. “And it’s all for a wonderful cause.”
The crowd filled the spacious hall—once an Iron Works machine shop—to near capacity. Attendees lined up patiently for the main meal after sampling hors d’oeuvres such as maple beet sweet-and-sour pickled eggs and chicken pate crostini.
Main courses included lasagna Bolognese, beet green salad, roasted pig, Asian roasted veggie salad, eggplant Neapolitan, roasted corn, coq au vin and other items both exotic and familiar.
Area farms donated the food, and chefs on and off the premises prepared it. Overseeing the on-site kitchen crew were chefs Sean Miller of The Foundry in Killington, Steve Lanphere of Point Counterpoint Music Camp, and Dave Engels, a cooking instructor for the food center’s Learning Kitchen. A number of other chefs and restaurants, including Stanti’s Victorian Inn in Wallingford and The Palms in Rutland, prepared food at their facilities and sent it to the Food Center on time for the event.
Students from the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier pitched in on the cooking and preparation. Also helping out were participants in the Health Care Share program, a healthy-eating program that unites doctors, patients and food producers.
Much of the on-site cooking was done on outdoor grills to keep Farmers’ Hall as cool as possible.
Kathleen Krevetski, a Food Center board member, summed up her feelings about the Harvest Fest on Monday afternoon, Aug. 15, as the cavernous Farmers’ Hall returned to its quiet emptiness. “Seeing Farmers’ Hall full of people having fun together over a meal of locally produced food—you can’t get any better than that in Rutland County,” she said.
A new feature this year was paid sponsorships allowing organizations to promote themselves with banners at the dinner and throughout the coming winter market, which is held in Farmers’ Hall.
Zip and Royal Barnard took charge of organizing the event, assisted by volunteers too numerous to mention. Also notable were the contributions of area artists, who created whimsical life-size scarecrows that were auctioned off, and of course the many area farms that donated food for the dinner.
The Rutland Garden Club held a TV-style “iron gardener” event, arranging flowers, fruits and vegetables into centerpieces in a timed competition. A winner was declared, but all results spoke to the talents and taste of the competitors.
Two local legislators, Sen. Brian Collamore and Rep. Larry Cupoli, handled the emcee duties, maintaining a cheerful demeanor despite the challenging acoustics of the old factory. And keyboardist Nick Morgan faced the same challenges but gamely provided musical accompaniment.
The Harvest Fest also served as the kickoff for Open Farm Week, a farm visitation event to promote the role of local fresh foods in personal health.
The Food Center occupies a three-acre site at 251 West St. It was once the home of the Lincoln Iron Works, a 19th century pillar of the Rutland economy. The center was founded as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in 2012. For more information visit VermontFarmersFoodCenter.org.