SFA has been very lucky in the past few weeks to host four chapter events that celebrate farmers’ bounty and harvest, build community and raise funds. I was lucky enough to attend all of them and wanted to share a few highlights.
The Minnesota Garlic Festival, held last month in Hutchinson, was an incredible gathering of premium garlic growers, die-hard garlic lovers, curious folks, music, food and ridiculousness. SFA’s Crow River Chapter has grown this event over 12 years to become a big deal in the McLeod County area as well as a major chapter fundraiser. Diverse vendors offered food, fresh vegetables, art, fiber, crafts and, of course, garlic. Highlights: the Great Scape Cafe, tabling next to the Lamb Shoppe’s Game of Herbs display and visiting with hundreds of members, supporters and Garlic Festival loyalists. The Crow River Chapter leaders, sponsors, army of volunteers and coordinator Jerry Ford deserve thanks. Only this crew could make me believe that garlic ice cream is delicious.
The Greater Mille Lacs chapter held its first ever Farm2Families festival at the Heimark farm near Aitkin a couple of Saturdays later. Remember that rainy, cold weekend? Yeah, that put a damper on attendance, but not on the community of growers and farmers who offered a beautiful array of fresh garden produce, bakery goods (amazing bread!), fresh meats, crafts and hospitality. Farm2Families featured practical educational presentations that are the hallmark of SFA’s work. Chapter leaders, led by Debby Flowers, and sponsors did a stellar job. Highlights: The gift basket door-prize drawing which enabled chats with many cool people, excellent veggie buys, and beet pickles.
The 24th annual Harvest Festival in Duluth was held two Saturdays after that, sponsored by Lake Superior Chapter. Music and food vendors were also central to the event, but one difference is that the chapter included information tables from a bevy of educators like Interfaith Power and Light, League of Women Voters, Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture and Farmers Union. And the area Rotary Club has been a longtime partner, helping with at-the-gate donations. Highlights? Duluth is where I went to grad school and it was great to be back. Fresh hot coffee and tabling with the Lake Superior SFA Chapter board and coordinator Clare Hintz made the day. I look forward to next year’s 25th Harvest Festival!
Minnesota Salsa Fest! Last weekend’s confab was in Long Prairie, and was a first-time event hosted by Central Chapter. My hat is off to their board, sponsors and coordinator Holly Pearson for launching a community building effort that exceeded expectations and brought in the curious, the faithful, and the community. This, in spite of the rain. The Fest featured music by Diamante de Mexico and a salsa contest with mild to smoking hot salsa and pico de gallo, resulting in one of the judges (garlic-biased Jerry Ford) breaking out in a major sweat that only beer could cool. Highlights? Enchiladas, the Jalapeno-Lime Ice Cream (goes well with beer) and new friends in the Hispanic community.
At each of these events, producers sold vegetables, meat or other value-added products and the displays were first-rate. SFA aims to promote fair prices that compensate growers and vendors for their cost of production plus a reasonable rate of return. That’s a priority. So is music, fun for the family, and educating people on sustainable food production.
Fundraising and membership-building are also goals. Sponsorship support, admission, donations and food sales helped each event run in the black, and the two new events have a solid foundation on which to grow.
I want to thank those who joined SFA or renewed your membership at these events or in response to online promotions. Membership dues are the fuel that keeps our fires burning through the winter ahead. If you haven’t had a chance to become an SFA member or if your dues are expiring, take a moment and join or renew SFA today.
Dues are $40 for an individual or $50 for a household and offer huge benefits – most importantly, the confidence in knowing that you are supporting a group that builds community and protects our food producing resources for generations to come.
Here’s to next year’s SFA festivals!