Last September, we had the privilege of attending Chefs for Farmers, a farm-to-table homage hosted in Dallas, Texas each fall. Chefs for Farmers stands out as the most inspiring culinary event I attended in 2016. Allow me to explain.
I grew up on a farm.
Growing up on a farm, we’d have a motley crew of rotating visitors throughout the year. Some folks would come to pick fresh sweet corn or blueberries in the season. Some would come to visit their old friends (my parents). Some would come for the opportunity to hunt for deer, dove or wild turkey. Many would come simply to enjoy a home-cooked meal and some fresh air.
Growing up on the farm, I woke up every day to that same wide-open space, fresh air and food. And of course, I took it for granted. I remember asking my dad every now and then, when the visitors had just left, “What’s the big deal, anyway?”
(To be fair, my mother is a tremendous cook, so that was clearly a draw. But that was only an hour or so out of what was often a half day to multi-day visit.)
Why did people want to come to our farm? Why did they seem so happy and engaged and interested in it? And why did he take so much time to share with them and show them and educate them about the ways of the farm?
Why did they come?
Chefs for Farmers
Enter the 2016 Chefs for Farmers event. As I walked thru the sea of people and past table after table manned by America’s top chefs serving food sourced from local farmers or fishermen, I couldn’t help but imagine the fun my dad would have had getting to be one of these farmers.
In my mind, my dad was a farm innovator before it was cool. Back in the 1970s, he decided to grow cabbage instead of the usual cotton crop on our farm in the hills of Mississippi. I’m pretty sure everyone including my mom probably thought he was crazy. But he did it anyway.
Fast forward, and I’m standing in a room full of people just like him – except they benefit from a time in history when it’s in vogue to eat local produce rather than microwaved dinners on a plastic tray. Dad would have relished growing food for chefs, and I love imagining seeing his hard work rewarded by name at an event like this one or on the menu of an acclaimed restaurant menu.
The truth is, farming is hard work. It’s lonely work. And sadly, it’s thankless work. But thanks to Iris Midler, the founder and impassioned leader of Chefs for Farmers, dozens of farmers get to operate in community with chefs and champions who value their craft. Thanks to Midler’s efforts, dozens of farmers DO get to have the Chefs for Farmers experience.
And lucky for us, that experience works two ways because we, the guests, also get to have that experience.
In the beautiful setting carefully created by the event planners, we get to meet the farmers and taste their wares – lovingly prepared by a talented chef. We get to hear the farmers talk about how and why they do what they do, and we get to hear the chefs brag about the products and talk about how to use them. And we get to see the scope of the movement – and, y’all, the scope is big.
In short, Chefs for Farmers is about tasting way more than food. It’s a taste of the farm life – of the fresh air and innovation that’s driving America’s culinary future.
An inspiring future, to be sure.
The beginning of a new year always makes me introspective. Maybe because, for me, each new year brings swiftly behind it another birthday. I’m officially not as young as I once was, so I’m grateful when the occasion comes to celebrate the experience of my life, to look to the future and to reflect on what I can do better.
I remember my family’s farm and the experiences it gave me. I’m over twenty years removed from that place and those experiences now. Yet, somehow, finally, I think I understand.
I understand why they came.
My dad never got to have an experience like Chefs for Farmers. But he did show off his farm one visitor at a time – for decades. I wonder, was he an innovator after all? Or was he just a farmer – doing what they do?
This year, I’m inspired to give you, our readers – chefs and consumers alike – the chance to have those rich farm experiences in real and virtual ways. I want you to get to go to the farm – to lots of farms. I want you to know and understand where your food comes from and how it’s nurtured, grown, harvested and processed. And I want you to meet the people who do that hard work to fill your plates.
Chefs for Farmers is about tasting way more than food. It’s a taste of the farm life – of the fresh air and innovation that’s driving America’s culinary future.
Connecting with our food gives us a connection to our place in the world – and to the dependence we have on those who grow it. It’s important – but it’ll also be fun.
Chefs for Farmers provides a tremendous experience for the foodie novice and the experienced gourmand alike. I can’t recommend it enough. As I said before, it stands out as the most inspiring culinary event I attended in 2016, and I’m grateful to the generosity of the committee who invited us to share the experience with them.
- Held each fall in Dallas to celebrate the farm to table movement.
- Countless tasting tables – you won’t leave hungry! This event is Texas-sized!
- Meet chefs from coast to coast and everywhere in between all there to show their support of local farmers by showcasing their wares.
- For a one-day main event, I was blown away by the impressive line-up of the chefs – and the impressive quality of their tastings prepared for such a large crowd.
- Bottomless drink tasting options included fine wines, craft cocktails and local craft brews paired brilliantly with the food around them. I definitely discovered some new favorites!
- Live music, people’s choice voting, and an impressive event design made the experience top-notch.
- And yes, there were the farmers. God bless the farmers of America.
- Save the Date for November 3-5, 2017. Will I see you there?