I probably should not be overly effusive, but what the heck, I can’t help myself: The shindig Sunday afternoon at Whitton Farms in Tyronza, Arkansas, was a blast, or as my husband Tony said, “This is one of the coolest things I’ve done in years.”
Despite the heat and drive, more than 300 people (families, kids, hipsters, locavores of all types) showed up at the first annual “Whitton Farms Feastival,” an event dreamed up by Jill and Keith Forrester to promote locally-grown food and raise a little extra cash for farm equipment and the Memphis Farmer’s Market.
A celebration of food and community, many of the folks attending Feastival are regulars at the local markets where the Forresters sell their produce. The afternoon excursion was a day in the country and a chance to get a peek at the Forresters' farm, a charming and functional collection of greenhouses, service sheds, chicken coop, bee hives, and kitchen gardens started by Keith’s grandfather. (Not to overlook the acres of organic crops and flowers. They are sensational too.)
“We live in the house that Keith’s grandfather built 80 years ago,” Jill said. “He built it with materials he got from houses in the area that were being torn down. He was recycling way before it was cool.”
He also planted the farm’s mature grove of pecan trees where long tables, weathered church pews, and bales of hay served as party central for music by Bow Legged Rooster from Jonesboro and a spread put on by the city’s leading chefs, who donated their time and talent in support of locally grown food.
Was the menu typical picnic fare? Forget it. Read on and start making plans to attend next year’s Feastival:
•A 160-pound hog and leg of beef roasted by Reinaldo Alfonso (Chez Philippe);
•Gumbo by Kelly English (Restaurant Iris);
•Organic burgers with all the fixings by David Head (Nine Oaks Farm)
•Swiss chard salad, marinated onions and tomatoes by Jackson Kramer (Interim);
•Succotash by Stephen Hassinger (The Inn at Hunt Phelan);
•Zucchini and squash casserole by Andrew Adams (The Brushmark);
•Potato salad by Michael Patrick (Automatic Slim's);
•Fruit salad, cornbread cakes, zucchini Cookies, purple-hull peas by Miles McMath (Kay Café)
•Cheesy grits with leeks by Matt Crone (Sole Restaurant & Raw Bar);
•Strawberry cake, peach cobbler, cheesecake, fudge brownies, homemade ice cream by Billye and David White (Meals Matter);
•Canolis by Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman (Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen)
One more thing: Local growers who participated in the event deserve a shout-out too. In addition to the Forresters, these folks also donated food: Neola Farms, Nine Oaks Farms, Jones Orchard, Bluebird Farm, Mike Wilson Farm, and Delta Grind.
This plate of food was my favorite: cheesy grits by Matt Crone, mini-burger from David Head, and Swiss chard salad by Jackson Kramer.
Neola Farms, along with other local growers, donated all the ingredients for the picnic spread.
The event included lots of kid-friendly activities, including hayrides and water slide.
Local chefs chow down for the pie-eating contest