Organizing a Farm to Table Meal

By Megan Dunford – Virginia Farm to Table Coordinator, Virginia Cooperative Extension & Eric Bendfeldt – Extension Specialist, Community Viability, Virginia Cooperative Extension

There is no denying that the farm to table trend and its impacts have taken root in communities throughout Virginia, and across the United States. Farm to table meals have the potential to generate grassroots support for area farms, farmers markets, and local food programs. While sharing a thoughtfully prepared meal, community members have the chance to bond and reconnect over a region’s shared agriculture. If the perfect storm of local food advocates presents itself, use these suggestions as a starting point to organize a Farm to Table meal and event in your own community.

A Recipe for Success!

  1. A group of eager and willing event organizers. This group might include your local farmers market manager, farmers market vendors or farms willing and able to donate food products, Virginia Cooperative Extension professionals, local food system stakeholders, city or county tourism representatives, or representatives from local food cooperatives (co-ops).
  1. A local restaurant or an event venue with a kitchen. When choosing a venue to host your meal, it is important to ensure you will have support from:
    • The restaurant or venue manager. You will need the manager’s assistance in planning and executing the event. Before the event, you should plan to have restaurant staff or community volunteers attend to answer questions and help with dish clean up. A good working relationship with the venue’s manager will help make the day-of set-up and associated tasks easier for everyone.
    • A chef or cook that is able to work with local whole foods. You may be able to secure the venue’s chef. The chef you work with will need to have some level of flexibility, given that the meal will depend on what in-season foods local farms have available. Both you and the chef will be better able to solidify the menu in the weeks leading up to the meal.

Things to Consider

  • Will you sell tickets? Is there a maximum number of tickets that can be sold and will they be sold in advance? Will they be printed?  Can they be purchased online? Can they be purchased at the door?
  • How will you market the event?  Will you utilize social media advertising? Is it appropriate to create an event through sites like Facebook? Encourage event organizers to share the event and invite their unique “audiences” (followers) to attend.
  • Will you need printed materials?  If so, how will you print them? Possibilities include tickets, posters, fliers, etc.

Things to consider will be considered in greater detail in a future blogpost.