The staff at the Lands at Hillside Farms, in Shavertown, immediately knew it had struck a chord with the community when the first first Farm to Table Dinner was introduced last year.
“It was held on a Saturday, and we were getting voicemails on Sunday at the farm asking when tickets would be available for next year,” recalled Suzanne Kelly, director of development at Hillside.
The event has transformed into a three-part series for 2013, beginning with a kickoff dinner tied to Hillside’s Summer Fair from 2 to 10 p.m. Saturday. Tickets for the Summer Fair are $10, with children 12 and under admitted free. Tickets for the fair and Farm to Table Dinner set for about 6:30 p.m. are $80 and must be purchased in advance.
Proceeds from Saturday’s events will benefit the Green Guides educational program, a series of animal-assisted activities for vulnerable youths that may have behavioral issues, physical challenges and other barriers, Kelly said.
“It allows the students to participate in educational programs here at the farm, free of charge,” Kelly said. “It’s reinvestment back into the community, and the most precious resource we have is our youth.”
The Green Guides program began three years ago as a grass-roots effort when the parents of several children with autism called to request a tour of the farm, Kelly said. Through word of mouth, many parents learned of the farm’s inviting atmosphere, and several schools focused on aiding other vulnerable youths also sought programs at Hillside.
Educational programs and the Farm to Table Dinner series at the dairy farm both stress the importance of supporting local agriculture and understanding where food comes from and how it’s grown.
“When you buy local, you’re not only supporting your neighbors,” Kelly added. “You’re getting the freshest possible product you can get, and usually they’re chemical-free.”
In keeping with promoting the best produce available, menus for each of the Farm to Table events in July, September and October will offer the best of what’s available at the time.
“We do everything possible to use local foods that parallel the harvest,” Kelly said. “You’re going to get foods that were literally picked from the farm or the garden within a day or two.”
Playing off the harvest will allow Hillside Chef Pat Greenfield to craft a farm-fresh menu. Offerings for Saturday’s dinner, which is limited to the first 80 participants, include cream of carrot soup with Hillside cream, a mixed-green salad, Chicken Oscar with lump crab and asparagus; garlic mashed potatoes; and an in-season fruit pie with Hillside’s vanilla ice cream.
Attendees at the Summer Fair can enjoy live music from solo bluegrass soloist Leland Smith and Mother Nature’s Sons; performances by The Burning Hearts, an Allentown-based fire dance group; cow-pie bingo; visit from the farm’s animal co-educators including cows, goats, sheep, and the farm “superstar,” Otis the pig; and tours of the cottage.
Partners for the event include Luzerne Bank, All Mechanical, Beaumont Inn, Golden Business Machines, Luzerne Lumber, Mericle Commercial Real Estate, Nature’s Purewater, the Northeast Veterinary Referral Hospital and Premium Builders. Farms providing their goods for the dinner include Fertile Grounds, Lucas Farms and Hillside.
If you miss the chance to join July’s dinner, promotions for the Sept. 7 event that offers more than 200 seats will begin next week, Kelly said.
This story was written by Christopher J. Hughes and was published in the Times Leader.