Friday, July 20, 2018

One State, One Plate, One Story: Getting to Know your Illinois Farm Neighbors


Getting to Know your Illinois Farm Neighbors a dinner with Illinois Farm Families

**Disclosure: Illinois Farm Families invited my to enjoy a farm-to-table meal and meet local Illinois farmers. My meal was complimentary. No other compensation was received. All opinions are 100% my own.

Last week, I attended an incredible farm-to-table dinner hosted by Illinois Farm Families in conjunction with Momma Cuisine at the Chicago Botanic Garden. The evening provided an opportunity to learn about farming in Illinois, where our food comes from and how it is produced.



Heading to One State, One Plate, One Story at Chicago Botanic Garden

The Chicago Botanic Garden was such an amazing setting where we could enjoy the splendor of nature while sharing about agriculture in Illinois!

Enjoying a moment at the reflecting pond with a heron sculpture at Chicago Botanic Garden
Enjoying a moment at the reflecting pond before joining dinner!

Family Ties:

My great grandfather was a dairy farmer in Wisconsin. Two concepts he passed down to us was to care for the land and to support locally sourced food. When you support locally sourced food, you have more knowledge about the food upon your plate. Plus, you are strengthening the fabric in your community. Additionally, you have the ability to meet with local farmers and learn about their processes and the care they put into producing nourishment.

One State, One Plate, One Story Highlighting our Farmers in Illinois
One State, One Plate, One Story highlighting our Illinois farmers
Cocktail Hour - Learning with Illinois Made Treats:

We began our evening with a cocktail hour which gave us an opportunity to meet a bit with the farmers more on one-and-one allowing us ask questions. We met with Tammy Wakely who is a dairy farmer who also grows hay and wheat. We also met Drew Kuhn who raises pigs and corn. We also visited with Andy Roselius who grows crown and soy and Joni Bulcher who raises cattle. We are so thankful that some of our local farmers were able to share an informative dinner with us! I can tell you that immediately we noted the passion and care that they each put into farming. Personally, I did learn a quite a bit about soil and some elements that I can incorporate in my own gardening. I learned about soil more as a living body and how we can nourish it to in turn grow more sustainable and healthy crops. I also learned a little nugget that will help me with our own growing!

The Barn Door Cocktail mixed with Whiskey Acres Rye Whiskey distilled in Illinois
The Barn Door Cocktail mixed with Whiskey Acres Rye Whiskey distilled in Illinois
During our cocktail our, we were able to sample a range of Illinois farm products including The Barn Door Cocktail featuring Whiskey Acres Rye Whiskey from DeKalb. Whiskey Acres Rye Whiskey is distilled locally from grains grown right here in Illinois!


Baked Camembert Jar with raspberry preserves, balsamic syrup and crostini

Our appetizers featured Illinois cheeses from our dairy farmers, beef from our beef farmers and fresh vegetation from our produce farmers. Above is a Baked Camembert Jar with raspberry preserves, balsamic syrup and crostini. Really delicious and I am impressed by the range of Illinois cheeses. Something to explore!

Sharing and Learning From Each Other at the Table:

Lovely table setting in the Fruit and Vegetable Garden at the Chicago Botanic Garden

The table was set quite perfectly in the Chicago Botanic Garden fruit and vegetable garden with a canopy of grapes overhead. Truly an incredible location to have a family dinner of people from various walks of life that love local food. We opened our meal with a Summer Grilled Peach Salad featuring Windy City Harvest spinach and summer greens, grilled peaches, smoked bacon, feta, candied pecans and balsamic vinaigrette. I am honestly not normally a peach fan but this salad was fantastic. The recipe crafted by Johanna Marie of Momma Cuisine highlighted local and seasonal produce really capturing that summer vibe.

Summer Grilled Peach Salad with recipe by Johanna of Momma Cuisine
Summer Grilled Peach Salad
Between each course, one of our guest farmers shared the story of their farm and philosophy. We learned about how the family and the farm are truly interwoven. This really made me think about my family and how so many of the stories we hold dear are about my great grandfather's farm and what my family learned from farming. I think dinners like this are so important for all of us to understand how close we really are.

Learning about Cross-Wake Dairy Farm in Northern Illinois
Learning about Cross-Wake Dairy Farm in Northern Illinois
Our second course featured Citrus Grilled Pork Chops. An interesting tidbit about our locally sourced pork chops -- through innovative practices Illinois pork is leaner than it was 20 years ago. When you source your food locally and know your farmers, it is a bit easier to learn informative tidbits like this!

The Black forbidden rice accompanying the Citrus Grilled Pork Chops featured edamame. We learned that soy is one of the top crops in Illinois but only a small percentage ends up on our plates. Much of it is sent all over the world for feed and other uses.

Citrus Grilled Pork Chops featuring Illinois pork
Citrus Grilled Pork Chops featuring Illinois pork
Throughout the dinner, we enjoyed each other's company and sharing. We quickly learned that through sharing we could generate new ideas and possible solutions to problems. I think this showed another side of the power of food and sharing a meal.

Learning about farming and sustainability from Andy Roselius
Learning about farming and sustainability from Andy Roselius

Our last course featured an upside-down blueberry polenta corn cake with orange vanilla custard sauce. Corn is another important Illinois crop. So delightful to see it used in a dessert! The dessert was certainly delicious and a great way to conclude the meal!


upside-down blueberry polenta corn cake with orange vanilla custard sauce
Upside-down blueberry polenta corn cake with orange vanilla custard sauce

Take Aways:

One State, One Plate, One Story was an inspiring experience. When you get to know your farmers, you have a better understanding about the food on your plate. You also give them an opportunity to explain all of their knowledge and dedication that go into their products. I love eating locally because so much heart goes into the food. This was really evident during this dinner! I would love to see more events like this in the future where we can get together and learn more from each other and support Illinois agriculture.

One State, One Plate, One Story: Getting to Know your Illinois Farm Neighbors

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