There are jokes that could be made about Feast of Fields being a growing concern but, in fact, it is growing in many ways.
The first Okanagan Feast of Fields happened in 2009, with 20 chefs and wineries participating in preparing food for 400 guests. That’s a large operation in itself, but for the 2011 version, organizers have 29 chefs lined up, each paired with a local winery or brewery.
This year’s event, which happens on Aug. 21, will be held on the grounds of a Naramata winery: Van Westen Vineyards and Orchards, a family-owned operation with a 50-year history.
The Van Westen family has been farming for four generations, according to organizers, and the host farm has a stunning view across Okanagan Lake. Guests will sample the region’s creations amongst the vineyards and under the shade of the 20-year-old Lapin cherry trees.
“We want to move it around each year,” said event co-ordinator Rhys Pender, adding that there were many factors going into selecting an appropriate location. “We had to think about fencing and access, lots of logistics.”
All that planning is because they are expecting 500 guests this year. However, perhaps expecting isn’t the best word; 450 of the 500 tickets are already sold, with a week to go before the actual event.
It’s an event that draws from a wide spectrum, according to Pender. While many of the guests are from the South Okanagan, it also draws many tourists, both those that were already planning to be in town and those who come specifically for the event.
“It is like a wandering 29-course tasting menu featuring everything that is great about the Okanagan and Similkameen regions,” said Pender. “It’s pretty hard to get access to that kind of cooking all in one place.”
While the big draw is the food and beverages, the purpose of the event is to raise money for FarmFolkCityFolk, an organization that promotes better interaction between consumers and the people that grow and produce the food they eat.
Feast of Fields highlights the strong connections between farmer and chef, and highlights producers of Okanagan wine, beer and artisanal food products.
“It goes for a good cause,” said Pender, “The purpose is to get people to realize where their food comes from. Most of the participating chefs will work with a local farmer and showcase their product in the food they are preparing.”
FarmFolkCityFolk uses proceeds to fund their food security work throughout the province as well as Okanagan-based projects. This year, proceeds from Okanagan Feast are being used to bring a BC Seeds seed saving workshop to the Okanagan region.
More information, along with tickets sales, is available online at www.feastoffields.com.