WATERFORD — Most people have heard the phrase “Farm to Table,” a term used by the restaurant industry to describe food that is purchased locally and then freshly prepared for restaurant patrons. It reflects the larger trend of consumers wanting to support local farmers, food producers and artisans.
The movement inspired the Great Lakes Agricultural Fair Association to create Farm to Fork, an event that will highlight Michigan’s agricultural industry. Scheduled from 6-9 p.m. Sept. 24 at the Oakland County Market, 2350 Pontiac Lake Rd. in Waterford, Farm to Fork will provide a “taste” from local Michigan farmers, partnered with local restaurants. The evening will be topped off with selected Michigan wines. There will be an opportunity to purchase agricultural products from local Michigan farmers as well.
Funds raised from the event will go toward GLAF’s Gold Ribbon Scholarship Fund. Thanks to donations from private and corporate sponsors as well as events like Farm to Fork, the not-for-profit organization has been able to create this endowed scholarship fund for students whose future plans involve a career in agriculture.
GLAF teamed up with Oakland County Parks and Recreation, which operates the Oakland County Market, for the event. Market vendors have generously donated their time and fresh products, including meat, produce, and other items, to the restaurants taking part.
Café Muse in Royal Oak is one of the participating restaurants. Owner David Smith says his staff is excited about working with some of the local farmers at the Oakland County Market, adding that it will give them an opportunity to expand their list of farms they use at the restaurant and that it’s important that restaurants and local farmers build relationships that will, in the end, be beneficial for the consumer.
“We believe that using local farmers is important not only for our economy but to provide our customers with the freshest products available” Smith says. “It is the heart of what our restaurant was built on.”
Holly Hotel owner George Kutlenios is also looking forward to the Farm to Fork event. He said the restaurant has been utilizing local produce for a number of years, so it was a natural fit. Plus, he is pleased to continue to spread the word about the benefits of eating locally. “There’s nothing better than local produce,” Kutlenios says.
In addition to the scholarships, one of GLAF’s goals is to educate consumers about the variety and availability of local produce and Michigan-made food products. According to GLAF Executive Director Steve Thelen, agriculture is the No. 2 industry in the state, pumping billions of dollars a year into the state economy.
Farm to Fork tickets are $45 each and are available online at miglaf.org or by calling 248-421-7198. For more information about Farm to Fork, the GLAF Association or the Gold Ribbon scholarship program, visit miglaf.org.