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Edible Food Festival fits Orange’s rural roots
THE TOWN of Orange’s Edible Food Festival this Saturday will feature a diverse collection of speakers, artisans, chefs and practitioners of the growing farm-to-table movement.
Keynoting the festival, which will unfold in public lots downtown, will be Joel Salatin, the nationally known author, farmer and advocate of environmentally conscious farming practices.
Salatin operates Polyface Farm in Swoope, near Staunton, and has been prominently featured in the The New York Times bestseller “Omnivore’s Dilemma” and in the documentary “Food, Inc.”
His talk is titled “Folks, This Ain’t Normal,” and he says the crux of his presentation is this: “Real change in the way we eat won’t come until people are more interested in the quality and source of their meals than they are about the latest belly-button piercings in Hollywood celebrity culture.”
Currey Hay, the co-owner of the Beggars Banquet store and catering company in Orange, will join other chefs doing cooking demonstrations that should heighten listeners’ appetites for the range of food being offered by vendors.
Hay’s demonstration will be variations on lettuce bundles: macrobiotic with tuna, vegetarian with cheese and vegan with tofu.
Ruckersville’s Jim Ashley will advocate the composting virtues of earthworms from the speaker’s platform and sell the little wigglies as one of many vendors at the festival. What would you expect from an Orange County resident whose business is called “Worm Crusader”?
The Orange Downtown Alliance is sponsoring the daylong festival with Edible Blue Ridge magazine. Alliance Director Jeff Curtis said the event celebrating the earth-to-table movement is a perfect fit for Orange, where farmers raise everything from vegetables to cattle to alpacas.
“We were looking to host an event here that really fit with Orange County, especially its agricultural nature,” he said.
Curtis said the group searching for a signature event came across an issue of the Charlottesville-centered magazine and realized its focus was perfect to build a festival around.
The two talked, and a partnership was formed.
Curtis said planners expect about 3,000 attendees, but added, “That’s really just a guess, based on similar festivals elsewhere.”
Salatin said he thinks such festivals are important because they encourage “the choir,” offer instruction to the uninitiated and facilitate “connections with our ecological umbilical.”
He said his talk will focus on the abnormalities of our day and what a return to normal would look like.
“It won’t be fireplace cooking, hoop skirts and wringer washers, “ said Salatin. “It means we will need to eat food you can pronounce, food that will rot. And we’ll have to return to a fundamentally integrated food and farming system rather than a segregated one.”
Hay, who is also coordinating food vendors who will separately offer everything from chicken to beef to seafood and vegetarian fare, said the festival’s focus on eating locally is just one of the many requests she sees from catering clients.
“Along with concerns about food allergies, as well as food that’s gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan or macrobiotic, people are looking closely at what they’re eating and how it’s prepared,” she said.
Curtis, the alliance director, said the festival is about going back to basics. That extends from speakers, who’ll touch on everything from heirloom and organic seeds to culinary history to “In Season,” a new documentary on Edna Lewis that will touch on the way the Orange native used fresh regional favorites food in her famous Southern cookbook and world-renowned restaurants.
Vendors will sell honey, goat cheese, butcher-block tables, hand-painted linens, hickory syrup and kombucha beverages, among other things. Music will fill the food-infused air as well, from blues to bluegrass and classical offerings.
“It’s the notion that everything that’s good comes from the ground—the idea that if you take care of the ground, it’ll take care of you,” said Curtis. “This festival will give you advice on just how to do that.”
Rob Hedelt: 540/374-5415
WHAT: Festival in downtown Orange featuring speakers, cooking demonstrations, music, vendors and a range of foods.
WHEN: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: On a public lot off the State Route 15 bypass in downtown Orange. Children’s events include music, cooking and crafts in a “Kids’ Place” in Taylor Park.
COST: Admission is $5, with children 12 and under admitted free.
PARKING: Patrons will be directed to offsite parking, where buses will shuttle them to the festival.
HIGHLIGHTS Cooking demonstrations done by Melissa Close–Hart of Palladio at Barboursville Vineyards, Joe Randall, who operates a cooking school in Savannah, Matthew Raiford of Little St. Simons Island resort in Georgia, Currey Hay of Beggars Banquet in Orange and Gail Hobbs–Page of Caromont Farm.