The way seed-to-table educators see it, the celebration of local farms and local food didn't end with the 10th Whatcom Harvest Dinner, which drew hundreds of people to munch on good eats that included alder-smoked salmon, roasted harvest salad, and broccoli and cheddar pasty.
"Events that bring people out to farms and have them think about where their food comes from, and reflects the value of eating local food, those events are of value themselves," said Mardi Solomon, co-coordinator for the Whatcom Farm-to-School support team.
The sold-out dinner Sunday, Sept. 23, at the new BelleWood Acres facility near Laurel was a combination of the "eat local" attributes dished up by Solomon.
So, she said, were the Whatcom County Farm Tour and the Taste Washington Day in public schools - both held this month.
Ditto for the Healthy Bodies Healthy Minds event in Blaine coming up in October, and the proliferation of school and community gardens, all with the goal of connecting kids and families to fresh local food through their hands or through their bellies.
"There's huge excitement around local food and around connecting kids with local food," said Laura Plaut, director of Common Threads Farm and School Garden Collective.
Both Plaut and Solomon were at the Harvest Dinner, which was hosted by Slow Food Fourth Corner and Whatcom Farm-to-School.
Besides featuring local food, the dinner raised money for Common Threads and three other educational programs: Sustainable Connections' Food to Bank On project; Explorations Academy's gardening and cooking program; and Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association's Students for Salmon program.
The dinner featured a sliding scale and a kids' price to attract families to the event at BelleWood.
"What I hope we're doing as a community is growing the next generation of good eaters," Plaut said, some days after the dinner.
"I hope that we're raising young people who get it that eating well is not an elite concept," she added. "It's something that we invest in as a community because it's good for our bodies, it's good for our local agriculture community, and it's good for the planet."
To engage kids, such efforts need to be fun, said Plaut, whose organization is working with 13 school gardens in Whatcom County, with another two school gardens possibly being added in spring.
Explorations Academy, through the efforts of staff member Sarah Lane, has had a gardening and cooking program for about 21/2 years. The program is part of the effort by Explorations students to be "responsible global citizens," said Daniel Kirkpatrick, the school's director. That involves teaching students about sustainability, but in a way that is more than theoretical.
"One of the pieces of that is growing their own food," Kirkpatrick said, describing what students gain from pulling beets they grew out of the garden and eating them for lunch. "There's a level of connection there that's extremely immediate - from soil to hand to belly - that is powerful."
For Kirkpatrick, going to the harvest dinner was about going on with tradition.
"It's a long-standing, eons-old tradition that we look forward to continuing," he said.
Nearly 400 diners, including up to 60 volunteers, were at the 10th dinner last weekend.
"Look at all the tables, aren't they pretty?" said Diana Campbell, of Slow Food Fourth Corner, in the time leading up to the dinner.
She talked about a community coming together to have a good time at a fun event, of people who love to eat out coming out to see which local chefs were preparing the food.
Under the soft, fading light at BelleWood Acres - with its apple orchards, sweet corn and pumpkin patches in the background - and with music by the Gallus Brothers, visitors sipped chilled beet and carrot-ginger soup made by Ben Scholtz of Mallard Ice Cream and spooned into martini glasses, and dug into salmon and rotisserie chicken prepared by Ciao Thyme.
ON THE WEB
Slow Food Fourth Corner has a Facebook page.
Sustainable Connections; for the Food to Bank On project, click on the "Food & Farming" link.
Reach KIE RELYEA at email@example.com or call 715-2234.