Want to eat just like the cows? No? Me neither. But you can eat where the cows eat — on the farm. An increasingly popular trend that has locavores and foodies donning their Sunday finest and traipsing out over hay-covered ground to an outdoor table is dinner on the farm.
These dinners on the farm aren’t served inside the farmhouse by a farmer’s wife in a gingham apron. They are elaborately planned dinners that bring the guests together with farmers, local chefs, fishermen and local wineries to create the ultimate local culinary experience from soup to nuts.
Some dinner on the farm events are simply that — dinner on the farm. Others offer tours of the farm before the event and activities for children while others gently discourage the attendance of small children by not offering discounted meals for children. Since these dinners can cost well over $100 plate, this easily discourages parents. Some farm dinner events are fundraisers, raising money for the farms or important causes.
Why are people flocking to eat out in the middle of field on a summer night? Like buying food straight from the farmer at the farmers market, these dinners put them in touch with those who produce their food. Diners get to sample seasonal, fresh meals expertly prepared by experienced chefs who frequently mingle with the guests at some point during the evening. It’s also a chance for those interested in local foods to commune with others with the same interests. Diners get to meet other locavores and foodies.
I’ve found a sampling of dinners on the farm that are happening in the upcoming weeks around the country — perhaps there is one happening near you.
• Queen’s County Farm Dinner in Floral Park, N.Y., on Sept. 10, at 6 p.m.
Dining guests will join Top Chef’s Camille Becerra and Daniel Holzman for a five-course meal with wine pairings. Cost: $75 (changed from the previous $70).
• Live Earth Farm Discovery Program Organic Farm Dinner Fundraiser in Freedom, Calif., on Sept. 12 at 4:30 p.m.
This dinner will feature wine and organic fare by local artisans and will raise money to bring nearby Watsonville public school students out to the farm regardless of ability to pay for their tour. Cost: $70 for dinner; $25 for children 7+ years; $100 for dinner and optional workshop.
• Slow Food Central Upper Peninsula Farmstead Feast in Marquette, Mich., on Aug. 30 at 4:30 p.m.
Held at Seeds and Spores Family Farm, this event starts off with appetizers, then a tour of the farm, then dinner prepared by a local chef who will use many ingredients from right the fields being dined in. Guests are encouraged to bring their own wine or other alchoholic beverages. Cost: $45; $35 for Slow Food members and volunteers.
• Old Maids Farm in South Glastonbury, Conn., on Sept. 10, 11, or 12 (no time stated).
Dinner on this organic farm is part of the Dinners at the Farm series (see video below for more about the series) that celebrates farms, farmers and community. Dinner is cooked on the program’s cherry-red cook truck. Guests will “savor course after course of delicious food cooked from scratch” and help raise funds for local farms. Cost: $150.