Article and Photos by Helena Tavares Kennedy
Perhaps you grow some potted tomato plants, have a family garden, rely on the grocery store, or visit a local farmer’s market for your meats and produce, but have you ever had an entire meal from locally sourced ingredients?
More and more people are looking to eat healthier and fresher while supporting local farmers and businesses. In the Prince William region, we have a variety of farms from veggies to beef producers, so finding enough farmers to make a completely local meal was pretty easy for the Prince William Environmental Excellence Foundation.
On Saturday, August 19th, the Prince William Environmental Excellence Foundation hosted their second annual farm to table gathering to raise funds for their environmental education program. The dinner event cost $45 per person and was held at Windy Knoll Farm in Nokesville, a sheep farm with a beautiful indoor event venue for the dinner, as well as lovely outdoor spaces. Local vendors set up tables outside for guests to learn more about local farms and products. A hay ride showed guests around the expansive 98 acre property.
From Get Bubbly Ferments and their delicious kombucha, sauerkraut and other fermented products, to Courson Designs with their beautiful bamboo cutting boards that are custom engraved in Manassas, it wasn’t just about food, but about supporting local artisans, farms, producers and businesses.
But the food was what most people came for. From teenagers who were with friends or parents, to older generations that have lived in the region when there were many more farms than there are now, almost everyone said they came for the delicious food and to support local farmers and the Foundation.
The locally sourced meal consisted of melt-in-your-mouth beef brisket, tasty chicken and pulled pork, and fresh mixed salad greens all from local farms. The dinner also offered sweet corn, cole slaw, potatoes, berry and peach cobbler, and other veggies and fruits. All the fresh ingredients for the meal came from local farms including The Cedars Farm, Rainbow Acres Farm, True Farms, Yankey Farms, Evergreen Acres Farms, Out on a Limb Orchard, Moose Acres Farm, Roger Gwynn, Dutchland Farm, Bloom Flower Farm, Get Bubbly Ferments, Dutchland Farm, and Kettle Wind Farm. Chef Mike Pocratski and staff at the Blue Dog BBQ in Nokesville prepared the amazing meal. Wine came from La Grange Winery in Haymarket.
The 13 farms participating in the fundraising event offered guests local food that was as fresh as fresh can get. The cabbage for the cole slaw was picked that very morning. The brisket meat was on the cows just two days before. Many people commented on how fresh and delicious the food tasted and how you could tell it wasn’t from a grocery store where produce and meats are shipped from afar and often are several days or even weeks old.
The farm to table gathering allowed people to meet the farmers, highlighted the rich and diverse agricultural community in the region, and helped raise funds for the the Prince William Environmental Excellence Foundation.
According to Harrison Glasgow, Chairman of the Foundation, the Foundation provides agricultural and environmental education beyond the walls of a classroom and on-the-ground conservation practices on agricultural lands to preserve water and soil quality for us all. They host programs that benefit local school children such as Farm Field Days which introduces 4th graders to agriculture and natural resources conservation. Another program they organize to fulfill their mission is the Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences (MWEE), which is a Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) based program for third grade students to promote stewardship in their community.
Farm Field Days have been around for 27 years and have had over 29,000 Prince William region school children benefit from the program, according to Mike Miller, Conservation Planner for the Prince William Soil and Water Conservation District.
The event ended with a silent auction where local wineries, farms, artisans and other businesses donated a range of offerings up for the highest bidders. All the proceeds from the silent auction and the 50/50 raffle benefited the Foundation as well. Miller said that since the farmers and vendors donated most of the food and silent auction items as part of sponsoring the event, the price people paid for their dinner and event ticket is almost 100% going directly to these wonderful Foundation programs that benefit local school children and their environmental, agricultural, and conservation education.
Glasgow said that the Foundation has received less and less government funding lately so they really need more help from the community in raising funds, as well as more volunteers to help support the Foundation. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, making a tax deductible contribution, or learning more about the Foundation, visit their website at pwswcd.org/prince-william-environmental-excellence-foundation.
Helena Tavares Kennedy ([email protected]), a longtime Prince William County resident who supports environmental and conservation education, local farmers, and shops at local Farmer’s Markets, is a freelance writer and communications consultant at htkmarketingservices.com and livinggreendaybyday.com.