Celebrate the bounty of Boundary County at the third annual Farm to Table Dinner, which will take place September 22, 6 to 9pm, at the Boundary County Fairgrounds Valley Event Center, 6567 Recreation Park Road in Bonners Ferry. Featuring organic food from the GROW (Gardeners for Regional Organic Wellbeing) Community Garden, the five-course dinner will also incorporate fresh and local foods from small farms in Boundary County.
The first Farm to Table Dinner took place in the fall of 2016. Deb Foster, a GROW organization member, encouraged the group to hold a Farm to Table dinner, rather than their usual raffle, as their fall fundraiser. Being a professional cook and the GROW garden manager for years gave her the unique skills for organizing the first event, which turned out to be a great success.
“Both our 2016 and 2017 Farm to Table dinners were very well received. They sold out, with 100 tickets at $40 each,” says Kate Painter, Agricultural Extension educator for University of Idaho Extension in Boundary County. “We also met our goals with our silent auction that was held at the event. Feedback was excellent; the community has been very supportive.”
The 2018 event will feature an Italian theme, starting with a diverse antipasto plate. Fresh baby greens from the garden with tomatoes and homemade cheese will be served, as well as eggplant parmesan, homemade breadsticks, custom sausages from locally grown organic meat, and roasted root vegetables and potatoes. There will also be a selection of desserts made from locally grown fruit. In addition to the wonderful food, each attendee receives two free tickets for beer and wine with their ticket purchase.
Most of the produce will be coming from the GROW garden, with the flower arrangements done by GROW member Julie Newcomb from Cloud Eleven Mountain Farm in Moyie Springs. Bob and Joanie Peterson from Bella’s Barn dairy are providing milk that will be used to make cheese for the salad. Points North Orchard will be providing peaches for one of the desserts. GROW board member Deanna Lauber is providing the organic Galloway beef for the custom sausage. There are a large number of generous community members who also contribute to the dinner, including Mike Naumann at the Kootenai River Brewing Company.
The event features passionate growers from around the county who will discuss what they are doing on their farms, from permaculture to small dairies to flowers and vegetables. “We also discuss what we’ve done at the GROW garden this year, such as our new children’s plot and a hoophouse purchased with a grant from Mountain West Bank,” says Kate.
In addition, attendees will learn about a grant-funded project with University of Idaho Extension and USDA on the topic of supporting and expanding our local food systems throughout Idaho. A focus group session was held in Bonners Ferry in August on this topic, and there will be a statewide conference in Boise on October 18.
“One of the wonderful outcomes of this event is the growing awareness of the capacity of our local food system to supply our needs within the county,” says Kate. “We will have a short program on this topic, featuring local producers who will talk about what they are currently growing on their farms.
“The highlight of the event is the energy and comradery of all our guests, supporting our local food system and simply enjoying the evening. I hope they walk away from the event with more friends from our supportive community and a better idea of how self-sufficient we can be in terms of eating well from our local bounty and providing local organic vegetables to our community food bank and local free church lunches.”
Funds raised from this event support the local community garden, including utilities such as water, a portable toilet, seeds and plant starts, and the wages for a part-time garden manager.
This year, there are just 75 tickets rather than 100 the two previous dinners. “We feed approximately 100 people, including our wait staff, which consists of the Bonners Ferry FFA students plus our GROW organization members and volunteers,” says Kate.
Tickets for the GROW Farm to Table dinner are $40 each and must be purchased by September 18, four days before the dinner, so they can plan the dinner in advance. Tickets can be purchased at Bonners Books, the UI Extension Office or online at TinyURL.com/2018FTT. Attire for this festive occasion is up to you! Come casual or dressed to impress.
What started in 2009 with the support from community members who recognized the value of gardening not only as a source of food but as a tool for social connection and health within the community, GROW brings the community together to realize the connections that can be made within the community to further enhance its well-being. Their mission: To support a local and regional food security system and to advocate for agricultural practices that enhance the ecological independence and economic sustainability of Boundary County. Our goal is to create a self-sufficient, food independent community.
The organization provides gardening opportunities for those without access to a garden space and for who wish to garden in a community setting where they can learn from experienced gardeners, including the University of Idaho Master Gardeners, who have permanent plots in the GROW! community garden. GROW! provides gardening education, including information on planting, harvesting, food storage and composting.
In addition to the Farm to Table Dinner, GROW holds various events throughout the year. These include their spring raffle, which raises money for spring garden expense, including purchasing organic compost, seeds and plants. GROW has a booth and sells produce from the community garden several times over the summer at the Bonners Ferry Farmers Market. In addition, they now have a children’s plot that is maintained by GROW members. A local preschool has been visiting the plot over the course of the growing season.
According to Kate, GROW is always looking for new folks who are interested in joining or volunteering at the Community Garden. There is a great deal of work that needs to be done there, from regularly weeding tasks to special work days where we spread bark, make raised beds, construct hoophouses and more.
For more information on the GROW organization, community garden and gardening questions or problems in general, visit GrowBoundaryCounty.org or contact Kate Painter at the UI Extension Office. You can find out more about their work on the Boundary County Local Food System at BoCoLocal.com, which is an online guide to local growers and suppliers.