From Earth to plate

Winter Park's harvest festival

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  • | 6:21 a.m. November 10, 2010
  • Winter Park - Maitland Observer
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Farmers, gardeners, chefs and entrepreneurs will populate Central Park's West Meadow on Nov. 20 to celebrate the first Winter Park Harvest Festival.

This festival serves as a celebration of farmers, gardeners, and non-profits by having a farmers market with local food only, focused on connecting grass-root individuals with deep-root individuals.

The idea came to John Rife III, founder and producer of the festival, after he attended a conference based off the concept of Slow Money, where a person invests part of their capital into the local food system.

"I was thinking, how can I do that, and in a way that is tangible and makes a bigger impact than the dollar amount I'm willing to invest?" said Rife. "I'm a commercial real estate developer; I spend a lot of time raping and pillaging the environment, covering it in concrete, so this is sort of my way of giving back and doing something to bring balance to that lifestyle."

The event is free to the public and concentrates on six themes: local, grow, learn, taste, listen and play.

The festival includes a farmer's panel, organic garden demonstrations, cooking demonstrations, a mobile community garden, acoustic blue-grass music, and a farm-to-table dinner.

The farm-to-table dinner is the only ticketed part of the festival where attendees can enjoy food prepared by chefs while meeting the farmers that produced the food on their plates. The tickets cost $95 with the option of donating more money to allow the farmers to come to the dinner.

"We really want the community to have the opportunity to break bread with these local farmers and get to know them," Jamie McFadden said, owner of Cuisiniers Catering.

"Most farmers can't afford a $95 dinner, but they should be able to go to one, especially when it's showcasing their product," Rife said.

So far, $400 has been raised for the farmers to attend this dinner.

As part of the grow concept, the festival will include grow boxes, garden patch grow boxes where a person waters the plant from the bottom. This allows for less watering and maintenance, because the water reservoir under the plant keeps it continuously moist. The festival started out with 100 grow boxes and has now created 400 of them.

"The whole idea behind the grow boxes is to just get started in growing some vegetables and growing anything, because part of the harvest festival is to bring awareness to our local food and create more of a relationship between people and the food and the soil," Tia Meer said, founder of Simple Living Institute.

On Nov. 20, the grow boxes will be brought back to the park to create what Rife said to be the largest mobile community garden in Winter Park.

Rife said the festival will add synergy to things already happening in the local food scene in Central Florida.

Some of these things include the Winter Park Health Foundation creating community gardens around the Orlando area as a part of their Think-Act-Be Healthy Communities initiative. Simple Living Institute is working on a sustainable food project that will map out who the local farmers are in Central Florida, what farmers are farming sustainability as well as serving as a guide to these farms and local food farmers markets.

"I hope people are exposed to some things that are exciting for them, and that they get inspired to get involved in whatever way works best for them," Rife said. "That they wouldn't just go back home and go back to their same lifestyle, and that they would make an effort to get to the local farmers markets and join groups like Slow Food [a nonprofit that supports local food]."

Farm-to-table dinner

To buy a ticket to the farm-to-table dinner, go to, click on the farm-to-table link and register

for the dinner.


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