Sign up for our Email Newsletter

My Focus...

"I want the family farm - the backbone of our country's heritage - to thrive and survive for future generations."

Articles/Press Releases

Harvest Dinners Provide Special Experience

By Jane Eckert

There is a growing culinary trend with not only wineries but also family farms to host outdoor “harvest dinners” right in the midst of the farm.  A harvest dinner typically pairs fresh grown fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses and local wines with a multi course meal prepared on site by a recognized local chef.

The goal is to reinforce the connection with the local farmers who produce quality local food and the people who desire to eat local. While these types of meals perhaps first gained popularity at wineries, they are now quickly being hosted by family farms across North America.

A leading company that has paved the way in this new “foodie” experience is called Outstanding in the Field (OITF). Their website, www.outstandinginthefield.com,
says they are a “roving culinary adventure” and literally, they host dinners on farms across North America.

Whitty FarmsKaren and Doug Whitty of Whitty Farms (whittyfarms.ca) in St. Catherines, Ontario hosted a dinner this past summer and I had an opportunity to visit their farm and to talk with Karen about this experience.  She explained that OITF had selected a featured local chef to create the meal and then Whitty Farms was selected as the host site. Of course, some of Whitty produce was featured in the meal as well as their wines. Several other nearby farm products were also used to produce a local culinary meal. The chef prepared the meal onsite under tents for all to view.

OITF handled all of the advance tickets sales, coordinated the meal with the chef and provided all table service.  The price for OITF events range from $180 to over $200 per person plus tax and gratuity.  Whitty was responsible to prepare their grounds for the tables and tents as well as assist with clean up. The Whitty dinner not only attracted locals but many from the United States, including Texas, and even a couple from Dubai for a total of 140 guests.

Karen says, “The benefit to us has been the media recognition of hosting this prestigious event, plus we’ve developed new customers who joined our monthly ‘barrel club,’ and that certainly has helped the bottom line.” Each farm participating in the event attended the dinner and was given several minutes during the meal to talk about their farm, their products and their growing methods.

The OITF events feature long tables with linen cloths, fresh flowers, linen napkins, china dishes and glass stemware.  The food is served family style, and by the end of the evening strangers become friends.  Karen agreed that if she was given the opportunity she would definitely host the event again.

Another recognized group doing similar type meals in Oregon is called Plate and Pitchfork (www.plateandpitchfork.com), and no doubt there are many more than I have discovered.

Both of these groups have created very successful business models for hosting harvest dinners, and I’m now hearing more about local farms undertaking these types of events themselves. Many of these farms are also pairing with local chefs to handle the meal preparation, and the farm provides the site, setup, labor and the marketing. Sometimes these events are also donating a portion of their proceeds to local charities, food banks and similar organizations.

Hosting the event themselves, Sugartown Strawberries (www.sugartownstrawberries.com ) in Malvern, Pennsylvania has just Sugartown Strawberries, Malvern, PAcompleted their third year in hosting their “Farmtable Chef’s Dinner” series in conjunction with a local restaurant, Alba.  “The restaurant owners are committed to serving high quality, locally produced foods and are a perfect fit for the Sugartown dinner series,” says Bob Lange Sugartown owner.  This year they hosted three BYOB dinners, with attendance of about 70 people—each guest paying $90 per person. 

The Sugartown event kicked off with a sunset hayride to the open air dining site, with breathtaking views of this Chester County Century Farm. The guests were welcomed with sangria and appetizers and then a full-course menu followed.  The picnic table service was done family style.  By the end of the evening new friendships were made. A 50:50 auction was included and raised over $800 for Hives for Lives, a non-profit organization dedicated to cancer research.

As you can see, these events can be fun, educational and profitable.  I would encourage you to give some thought to this idea of developing a local culinary experience at your farm. The “foodies” attracted to these types of events are people that truly are interested in supporting the local farm movement and have the money to do so. Whether you want to prepare the meal yourself or connect with a local chef, there is an opportunity here.  The harvest dinners to bring recognition to the farm and to the food you grow, and the dinners also create a community of people wanting to celebrate the local harvest.

If you currently have produced this type of event on your farm I would love to hear from you and learn of your experience. 

Jane Eckert is the founder of Eckert AgriMarketing (www.eckertagrimarketing.com), a full-service marketing and public relations firm that helps farmers to sell directly to consumers, diversify operations and become tourist destinations. She is also CEO of www.RuralBounty.com, a search directory for agritourism farms and ranches in North America. Jane can be reached at 314-862-6288 or you may email her directly.