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The realization of Farm to Fork Loudoun—an 11-day culinary celebration of locally sourced foods—began from a series of serendipitous coincidences.
In 2009 the country was going through a recession, and Miriam Nasuti had just lost her close friend, Roxanne, to breast cancer. Wanting to spread happiness during an otherwise dark period, Miriam founded an online magazine, Talk Loudoun, that would share only positive news and stories. While working on articles, she connected with many young farmers throughout the area.
“Everything about the way we ate changed,” says Miriam on how the documentary influenced her and her family’s eating habits. “For example, we will never buy meat again from the grocery store. I at least want to know that when an animal is in this world, it is happy. I know what a happy animal looks like from visiting our area’s farms.”
From this passion the metaphorical seeds for Farm to Fork Loudoun were sprouted and, in 2011, the program was born. Miriam sadly said goodbye to Talk Loudoun in 2012 due to various circumstances, but her commitment to local agriculture and the ‘locavore’ movement remained.
Now in its fourth year of operation, Farm to Fork Loudoun is a widely attended and acclaimed event. Each summer, the initiative brings together area farms, wineries, and restaurants to produce a unique menu of items that are sourced using 70 percent local fare. This year, it runs July 23rd through August 2nd. Each restaurant creates a menu with at least two appetizers, two entrees, and one dessert. According to Miriam, many go beyond this requirement. What the public may not realize is all the work that goes into executing such an event.
Miriam and her four-person team start outreach to new farms, restaurants, and wineries beginning in November. Each year some participants drop out for various reasons, so the team seeks to recruit new contributors. Miriam’s goal from the onset was to get 20 participating restaurants, and each year that number has risen—2015 will bill 23 restaurants, 1 food truck, 9 farms, and 8 wineries.
“Our hope is that the community slams these restaurants to order from the Farm to Fork menu,” Miriam explains. “Going into our fourth year, as the event evolves, we just have to work harder to introduce this to people who’ve never heard of it.”
One way that Miriam keeps the event fresh is by incorporating new elements to each year’s program. In 2014, Farm, Fork, & Art was introduced, during which attendees sampled fresh local eats while enjoying local art. Specialty items were added to the online store for sale. This year, those interested can indulge in a “farm fresh” overnight stay at a participating hotel. Additionally, a Kickstarter funding campaign has been established, and Miriam and her team are discussing ways to expand the program.
Each May, a private meet and greet takes place where owners from the participating restaurants, farms, and wineries get together to collaborate. Here, the restaurant owners network with the farmers and vintners to determine where they will get the local ingredients to build their Farm to Fork menus. “It’s so rewarding to work with new people because they’re so excited and look forward to the meet and greet,” Miriam says. “Those who love the event and stepping out of their comfort zone are the ones that come back year after year.”
This 2015 lineup adds a number of women-owned restaurants to the mix, including Jasmine Chinese Cuisine and Sushi, Leesburg Public House, and Chimole—all located in Leesburg.
Attendees can enjoy a full course at one of the participating restaurants or, as Miriam suggests, experience a fuller scope of the offerings by doing a Farm to Fork revolving dinner with friends or as a ladies’ night.
“Miriam is a regular customer and we just love her vision of our community being nourished by locally-sourced food,” says Ever Johnson, who oversees operations at Trinity House Café, another new restaurant participating this year.
The café, opened in October 2014, is an outreach of the Christian nonprofit John Paul II Fellowship. On the decision to participate in Farm to Fork Loudoun, Ever says, “Tremendous spiritual graces flow through the beauty of Loudoun, and to experience physical nourishment from our land is to have a profoundly integrated experience of God’s care for us… we want to share it with others through the farm to fork movement.”
Following the success of Farm to Fork Loudoun, Miriam expanded the event to create Farm to Fork Frederick in 2012. This year it will take place August 28th through September 7th. Though she is unsure what the future will bring, Miriam notes that there have been talks to bring the program to Richmond and Baltimore as well.
“Ultimately, this is a mission of the heart, not the pocketbook,” says Nasuti about her passion for the program and her hope to keep the event growing. “Success isn’t measured in money. If someone has an idea, they can absolutely make it happen.”
One thing is for sure, this writer will make sure she gets out and enjoys some of the great meals at this year’s Farm to Fork Loudoun event, and she hopes you will, too!
Farm to Fork Loudoun Kickstarter Video:
PHOTOGRAPHY BY TRACI BROOKS
BRITTANY DELONG is a freelance writer and health enthusiast based in Sterling, Va. She is currently pursuing her graduate degree in publishing from The George Washington University. You can read more of her work on her website at www.brittanydelong.com.