Third Annual Homegrown Festival: a smashing success

homegrown-festival.JPG

Angie Beach her daughter Shelly, 5, husband Sunny and 5-month-old son River check out a booth during the Homegrown Festival held at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market in Kerrytown on Saturday night.

Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com

The first HomeGrown Festival took place at the Community High School in the rain. Few braved the puddles - giving me the chance to corner Mayor Hieftje for a five-minute conversation about his work on the Michigan Climate Action Council, his vision for Ann Arbor’s green energy usage, solar panels and new streetlights for downtown. Last year the Festival moved to Kerrytown and was a booming success, so much so that now, three years later, I was unable to have a five-minute conversation with anyone this past Saturday night.

Food, wine, beer, information, smiles, hugs, laughter, and great music swelled around Kerrytown - a glorious celebration of the all that is homegrown in southeast Michigan.

As John Harnois, of Harnois Farm, shared with me, “This is my first festival, and it took me forever to get from one end to the other - hours - because everyone is here - people I know, people I don’t know - people are quick to start up conversations.”

Many of those having conversations were vendors who had been up since the crack of dawn to prepare for the Ann Arbor Farmers Market at 7 a.m. Mill Pond Bread baker, Gabe Blauer, unrolled his spine as he stood to talk to me over the boxes of fresh foccacia. Borden - Silent Auction at the HomeGrown Festival

“What time is it? Almost 9! Wow, we are doing almost twice as well as we did last year. We have been working since 6 at the festival and up since 4 to do the farmers market. But it is totally worth it.”

Maitelates Chocolates founder Maite Zubia expressed similar enthusiasm as we watched the milling crowd, oversaw her abundant piles of delicious alfajores, and watched the patient participants waiting for wine tickets. “Just look at this -- it is fun! I am having fun with my eyes. Today was market day in the morning and still -- it is worth it, it is fun.”

Jenn Fike, CEO of Food System Economic Partnership (FSEP), has participated in all three festivals. She felt the festival’s success was due to people’s interest, “in where their food is coming from and wanting to buy direct from farmers and …” Other thoughts she may have wanted to share with me were muffled as she was pulled into a squealing hug.

Amanda Segar and Maggie Smith, of the Michigan Farmers Market Association (MIFMA), were joining the festival for the first time. According to Segar, they were seeking to meet “farmers market vendors and enthusiasts and to spread the word about our organization.” The two ladies wore identical grins of excitement as people pushed towards their booth to read about the good work MIFMA is doing with Bridge Cards and to answer their survey, “Why do you shop at farmers markets?”

The third year of the Festival brought in many people from all over southeast Michigan. One visitor to the Westside Farmers Market table shared that his family drove in for the Festival from Sterling Heights. “You have the best of everything in Ann Arbor,” he opined.

Wading through the sea of people continually pouring into the vibrant celebration, I felt the same way.

Here is the article on annarbor.com.

Mark you calendars for the third annual HomeGrown Festival: a celebration of Michigan bounty

Borden - Homegrown festival boy playing piehole

In 2008, over 1000 people flocked in the pouring rain to the first HomeGrown Festival in the Community High parking lot. Last year, the HomeGrown Festival moved across the street to the protection of Kerrytown and hosted over 5000 people. The weather was perfect. The smorgasbord of sounds, flavors, food, music, and NGOs was breathtaking. From baby chickens, to bees, to solar drying of fruit, to locally prepared gazpacho and chicken, bellies and brains were stuffed with great flavors and new ideas about community food security.

The third HomeGrown Festival, taking place from 6-11 pm on September 11 at Kerrytown, promises to solidify its role as the “annual celebration of our community, our farmers, and our region’s incredibly diverse (and tasty) food,” as described by Kim Bayer - one of the main organizers of the event. Borden - Homegrown festival chicks with crowd

Completely volunteer organized and staffed, the HomeGrown Festival embodies what is possible in grassroots activism. By request of the organizers, the Major is expected to once again proclaim September as Ann Arbor’s “Local Food Month.” Only those businesses that commit themselves to the local economy were offered sponsorship or booth opportunities. The HomeGrown committee intends to make the “event as close to zero waste as possible,” says Bayer, “the Washtenaw Biking and Walking Coalition will be offering their “bike valet” parking and security service to make it easy to arrive by non-motorized transport.”

Borden - Homegrown festival honey with crowd

When you arrive to the festival, there will be many things competing for your attention and time. 12 local chefs have been matched with local farms to prepare tasting portions of harvest fare, designed to spark creativity and sparkle taste buds - all food portions cost less than $6. 10 Michigan beer and wine vendors will have tastings. 4 local bands will be jamming on the Main Stage - as well as myriad acoustic sets. 35 local food and artisan vendors - from Westwind Milling to Durham's Tracklements to Mindo Chocolate to Farrell Fruit - will tantalize your tastebuds. Just in time for the holiday season there are over 40 items in their silent auction - donations from Michigan Theater, Downtown Home and Garden, and eve the Restaurant will compete for your attention and checkbook. There will be activities for kids and educational opportunities at many booths.

Mark your calendars now for what Jeff McCabe, another event organizer, describes as, “the big local foods party of the year!”

The HomeGrown Festival will take place September 11 in Kerrytown from 6-11 pm, they are looking for volunteers. Hope to see you there!

Here is the article on annarbor.com

A full day at HomeGrown Local Food Summit

Borden - crowd at HomeGrown Food Summit  Over 200 people attended the HomeGrown Local Food Summit at U of M's School of Natural Resources & the Environment.

Photo by Dave Brenner, School of Natural Resources & the Environment

I started out my day at the HomeGrown Local Food Summit talking about turkeys (with John Harnois of Harnois Farm in Webster Township) and finished it talking about garlic (with Dick Dyer of Pretty Good Garlic). I can only say, to extend the metaphor, the poor bird would be bursting at the seams if I tried to stuff in all of the conversations, ideas and people that swirled around the Samuel Trask Dana Building at the U-M yesterday, a gray Tuesday in early March.

According to Jason Frenzel, longtime member of the HomeGrown Steering Committee, the desired outcome for the summit could have been nothing but vast and powerful. “The goal of today is to come to an understanding of what the next phase of the local food movement is going to be. We will have a lot of different discussions and go through a lot of different processes to figure that out today.”

The energy was high from the very beginning, with Frenzel asking questions and the crowd responding with laughter, cheers, and raised hands.

“Give out a whoop if you GROW food!." "Raise your hand if you EAT food!"

The energy continued with Kim Bayer, president of Slow Food Huron Valley, presenting a slideshow of local food victories in 2009. These are victories for all of us.

2009 - Local Food Victories! Guaranteed to make your head spin and your heart full.

Borden - Yes we can Can

WHEW! I would also add to this list my personal favorite, the City of Ann Arbor changed zoning rules in order to make the Westside Farmers Market legal (yippie!).

Jeff McCabe then stood up to speak about the 10% Campaign, and his data was compelling. “In Washtenaw county, we spend over $1 billion a year on food…less than one percent of those purchases are grown in the county…growing 10 percent of our food would result in over $90 million in new direct economic activity and increased community security.”

At this point we broke into small groups to work on a slogan or a brand for such an initiative.

And the results were awesome:

“Keep it Local: Eat ten for your town!” “You drive a Michigan car, now eat Michigan food.” “Add 2 [meals a week] get 10 [percent]” “Ten [locally sourced meals a month] tastes great!” “Eat 2 [locally sourced meals a week] for you!” “Produce, Prepare, Prosper.”

Buoyed by the creativity and intelligence of our fellow participants, we broke out again into action groups focusing on the many facets of the local food hydra: education, infrastructure, inclusivity, management, resources, transportation and policy, among others. Each group worked on short-term and long-term ideas to improve a facet of that issue. My group was public outreach, and we centered our discussions on how to raise awareness of the local farmer’s markets. Ideas ranged from bicycle deliveries from the market to food preparation tips and guides.

Regrouping for a delicious meal by A Knife’s Work the day continued.

Smaller group workshops continued throughout the rest of the afternoon. From a dizzying array of choices (Beekeeping, Wildcrafting, Backyard Mushrooms, Farm to School, Local Food Distribution) I chose social media, where we spoke about the role of social media in raising awareness and improving distribution. Then I went to a workshop with Jennifer Fike of FSEP to hear about the Michigan Charter being worked on at the Michigan Good Food Summit to use as a template for Lansing discussions (you can read it on their Web site under “Draft Work Group Agenda Priorities”).

I started out the day talking to John Harnois about 13 frozen heritage turkeys in his freezer leftover from Thanksgiving and his concern about finding a market. Right then Chef Brandon Johns, of the Grange Kitchen & Bar, walked by and said that he might be able to take “a few." I ended the day sitting next to Dick Dyer, of Pretty Good Garlic, talking about the offers he had received from local restaurants to purchase his garlic. "I met so many people today, isn't this great?"

It appears I was not the only one making vast and powerful new connections and left feeling full of possibility and choices.

Here is the link to the annarbor.com article!