Teton County may not be in Southern California but our short growing season produces a relatively hefty yield thanks to the efforts to local farmers and food artisans. And if you made it to any Wednesday People’s Market or Saturday Jackson Hole Farmers Market this summer, you will have had a taste of the local crop.
That summer’s bounty is, unfortunately, coming to an end, so Slow Food in the Tetons and Central Wyoming College will celebrate the fall harvest season with the first-ever Farm to Fork Festival Saturday at the Center for the Arts.
Slow Food in the Tetons is a local chapter of an international movement that rejects fast food culture and promotes connecting communities with local growers. The Farm to Fork Festival is aligned with that mission.
“The Farm to Fork Festival is meant to be an entire day dedicated to getting community members together to care about food and celebrate the harvest,” said Scott Steen, the nonprofit’s executive director.
The festival is set to kick off Friday with a farm-to-table dinner at Trio. Saturday’s festivities begin with the final farmers market of the season, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Center for the Arts. During the day, local food artisans will host craft food workshops on topics ranging from making sauerkraut to the wild fermentation of wine.
“We want to tap into the skills of the skilled farmers and producers that do things like fermenting and butchering and make those skills available to the general public,” Steen said.
Bring your blankets
From 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Saturday Slow Food is also teaming up with Sweet Cheeks Meats and local restaurants to put on a farm-to-table community lunch at the center. The picnic-style lunch will be free for the first 500 people who show up.
How do you pull off a meal for 500 people? Potluck style.
Cultivate Cafe, North Grille and Snow King Hotel are bringing sides to accompany the locally grown meats, Snake River Grill is on desserts, and Snake River Brewing will be making its signature homemade bread and butter.
Aiming for zero waste is part of the program for all Slow Food-sponsored events, so picnickers are asked to bring their own plates, cups and utensils.
“We want to host a big community picnic lunch that’s as locally-sourced as possible,” Steen said. “We’re going to throw down and provide an excellent, healthy meal to 500 people — with as little waste as possible.”
During the festival Slow Food will be raising money for a new initiative: the Slow Food Small Farmer Fund.
Slow Food is planning to award an annual micro-grant to a local food producer starting in 2020. The grant would help support emergency relief to existing farmers, hiring farm workers or creating new farms, as well as other farm projects that may need a boost.
“The purpose would be to maintain or to increase the amount of good, clean and fair food produced in our area,” Steen said.
Food focused film
The evening portion of the festival is dedicated to a film and speaker event that unearths the pervasiveness of “big agriculture” in America.
Starting at 6:30 p.m. at the Center Theater, agro-economist Dr. John Ikerd will kick off the evening with a discussion about small farming communities in America and how they have been hurt by decades of big agriculture policies.
Steen has seen Ikerd speak at regional Slow Food events.
“He brings a rare and unique perspective because he worked in the Department of Agriculture ... when there was this big agriculture movement,” Steen said, alluding to the rise of mono-crop farming and big agriculture lobbying that has reshaped America’s food system.
“He had the hope of, ‘We’re going to feed the world!’ but after seeing the issues of the industrial food system and what it was doing to small farmers and communities across the US, he switched sides,” Steen said.
Following Ikerd’s discussion, Slow Food will screen “Right to Harm,” a film that exposes the devastating public health effect of factory farming through the lens of rural communities.
“I was shocked by the level in which these corporate farms operate above the law and against basic human rights, like healthy food,” Steen said.
Ikerd will join the film’s directors Matt Wechsler and Annie Speicher after the film for questions.
Planting new seeds
If you’re sad about the end of farmer’s market season, Slow Food in the Tetons also hosts a Winter People’s Market from 1 to 4 p.m. every other Saturday, December through April at the Fairground Building.
Slow Food is also gearing up for its new partnership with the Jackson Hole Community Garden.
Steen said Slow Food will not be changing the way the gardens are run but will be taking over management of the Blair and May neighborhood gardens.
“We’ll bring in more education, get more kids into the gardens, and do more workshops, both for kids and adults,” Steen said.
“Once we get the hang of that, we hope to start more community gardens. From a landscaping point of view, there are all these questions around the use of green space and my vote is it to put more gardens in. We could grow a lot more food around here.” ￼