The fifteenth annual Feast of Fields on Vancouver Island is fast approaching. Next month dozens of local chefs and beverage producers will spend a Sunday afternoon doling out thousands of delicious bite-sized morsels of food in an idyllic pasture. Today on CBC Radio Victoria’s All Points West show, I provided a preview, as well as a chance to win a pair of tickets for this usually sold-out event.
Feast of Fields is very simple. You show up at a farm somewhere on south Vancouver Island with your ticket. You get a wine glass and a napkin, and you then proceed to wander around the farm, being served small bites of food crafted from local ingredients, along with sips of BC wines, beers, ciders and other beverages. There is live music to listen to, chickens and other farm animals to observe, and as Feast organizer Melanie Banas explains, a general good feeling ensues about what you’ve just eaten and how you’ve eaten it: “Usually around 4 o’clock people start sitting down and lounging in the fields, quite often they get vertical because they are so full of all the great food they’ve been eating! We like the chefs featured at Feast of Fields to use local ingredients in their dishes and to serve them on edible dishware or something that ideally you could just drop on the ground, like a leaf. Or just a simple slice of cucumber is a great thing to serve food on.”
This is one of the main fund-raising events of the year for Farm Folk-City Folk, a non-profit organization that has always been dedicated to increasing the connections between BC farmers and the people who consume their products. In the past the organization has held dozens of events and helped lots of farmers and other food producers with grants to help them get established or provide training programs. Now Melanie Banas says the way in which money is allotted has changed a bit: “Over the past 15 years we have helped a lot of individuals and organizations with grants. Now we have moved to partnering with the Island Chefs Collaborative and VanCity to administer funds through a microloan program, which we think is a great way to help create a sustainable food system in BC.”
And Melanie says there are still some spots for restaurants who want to take part in this year’s Feast of Fields, which is a great place for chefs to expose their food and get to talk with about a thousand people all in one afternoon.
This year’s feast is being hosted by Alderlea Farm, a BC-certified biodynamic farm in Glenora, not far from Duncan in the Cowichan Valley. John and Katy Ehrlic own the farm and it certainly fits the ‘bucolic’ description. When I was there yesterday they were touring the farm with Melanie Banas and getting a sense of where all the tents sheltering the restaurants and beverage producers were going to go, logistics about parking and the movement of people to get them spread out on the farm when they arrive.
In addition to the actual growing of vegetables the Ehrlics now supply upwards of 200 families with vegetables through their community supported agriculture program which runs from May through December. People come once a week to pick up a share of that week’s harvest that they’ve paid for at the beginning of the season, which helps Farmer John with the upfront costs of each year’s plantings. Then there is the cafe at the farm, now open for 3 years, where people can have a coffee and lunches or early dinners made from farm-fresh produce.
John feels strongly about having people come to the farm, especially with their children, and that’s why he doesn’t mind opening things up to probably about a thousand people during Feast of fields.
We would like you to love it there as well. We have a pair of tickets to give away for this year’s edition of the Vancouver Island Feast of Fields on Sunday, September 16th at Alderlea Farm in Glenora…but there’s a catch: We want you tell us about your favourite Vancouver Island farm. It can be farm you’ve been to at a previous Feast of Fields, or one that you visited as a child, or go to now as part of your efforts to support local farmers. Just go to the bottom of the comments at the bottom of this blog entry and tell us where the farm is and why you like it so much. One paragraph would be plenty. We’ll choose a winner from the entries. Deadline to be determined, but don’t delay!