Harvest Fest aims to connect growers and customers
Local growers and producers will be in the spotlight Saturday at the 11th Annual Harvest Festival at Bayfront Park. "Participation is from people and products in the region," said coordinator Jean Sramek. "Even the artisans produced crafts from t...
Local growers and producers will be in the spotlight Saturday at the 11th Annual Harvest Festival at Bayfront Park.
"Participation is from people and products in the region," said coordinator Jean Sramek. "Even the artisans produced crafts from this region. The point is to showcase agriculture of this region."
The Harvest Festival grew out of the desire for the Sustainable Farming Association of Northeastern Minnesota to connect producers to consumers. The Harvest Festival began as a project and is now a primary event that is projected to bring in more than 7,000 visitors.
"It's highlighting very traditional skills, things that can be sustained without chemicals" Sramek said. "Now we're at a critical point of food distribution where we realize food is not only important for our health but environmental health."
Promoting the idea of sustainable farming is looking backward to move forward, Sramek said.
"Food used to be very centralized," Sramek said. "We've moved away from that."
Last month's frost goes with the model of sustainability the Harvest Festival is supporting.
"It's all good weather," Sramek said. The cool weather in northeastern Minnesota is the cause of an exceptional berry season, as well as quality leafy greens. Hot peppers, on the other hand, will have to hope for a better, warmer season next year.
The educational value of the Harvest Festival comes in when consumers learn to appreciate seasonal products, learn the value in eating something that is produced locally and the health benefits that come from the ability to trace the path from producer to consumer.
Sramek used the example of mad cow disease to explain the value of tracing food from producer to consumer.
"Evidence suggests mad cow disease comes from feed, and when cows are grown miles away, you don't know what they're being fed," Sramek said. "If you can visit the operation, you learn what is ultimately going to end up in your own food chain."
Sramek said evidence also suggests the less traveling produce has to do the better it is for the consumer. When produce comes from a nearby producer, consumers are getting it closer to when it was picked, and it does not require the use of waxes or pesticides to maintain the fresh look of the produce.
The Harvest Festival will showcase a variety of area producers for all types of consumers. Producers with lamb, beef, chicken, herbs, vegetables and even a garlic expert will be available on Saturday.
"This is not a place to preach about the health benefits of squash," Sramek said. "Growers are not going to lecture, but if you want to know, information on how to make choices when you leave the Harvest Festival will be available."
Demonstrations of sustainable skills such as wool spinning, blacksmithing and canoe-building will take place throughout the day. Entertainment includes local musicians and storytelling at the Food and Farming Story Tent.
The Harvest Festival runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is open to the public.