Farm to Table refers to a movement promoting locally grown food which has been gaining traction in recent years. But not many people know that, before the movement was launched, a touring group was bringing “table to farm” to connect consumers to where their food comes from. It's still doing that. One culinary adventure also honors local farmers.
“Just even that out with the new table,” said Jim Denevan as he arranged tables for more than a hundred dinner guests on Briars Farmstead in rural Virginia.
He and his eight-member crew arrived the night before. Chefs from a local restaurant prepared the dinner, called Outstanding in the Field. It's what Denevan calls a culinary adventure. He came up with the idea about a decade ago.
“The mission of Outstanding in the Field is to bring people closer to where food comes from and hear the stories directly from the farmer, walk around and get to know places like this, which are important, I think,” he said.
Denevan is a chef and his brother is a farmer. The idea of a farm-side dinner made sense to him but not necessarily to others.
"But I wanted to make the idea work, so I decided to cross the country," said Denevan. "I went all the way across the United States and set the table at farms, ranches, beaches, and other places where food comes from.”
Guests arrive with their own plates. After a brief welcome, the farmer leads them on a tour.
“These are free range chickens. We want them to eat as much pasture as possible because that's the magic," said a farmer to his guests.
Matt Szechenyi runs this ecological farm along with his family.
"This type of event connects us to a lot of enthusiastic people that we can form relationships with in the future. And this type of small farm business thrives on relationships,” said Szechenyi.
The tour ends at the table. The meats, in this 5-course meal, come from Szechenyi’s farm, the vegetables and other ingredients from nearby farms. Guests and local farmers share the table.
Annoica Ingram came with a friend.
“The food has been absolutely wonderful. I totally appreciate the hard work because now you see everything they have to do to take care of the animals and make sure they are well cared for," she said.
Alex Bogel came with his family.
“It is also especially wonderful to sit at the table this big with all these people. The sense of community is wonderful,” he said.
Denevan and his team have served almost 13,000 people in the U.S. and beyond.
But open air feasts can be challenging.
"It could just start raining. We'd have to carry the table all the way to the barn right there. It is not always beautiful weather. But for us, that's part of the adventure."
Denevan is planning to expand his operation.
"Next year, we are planning to go to Asia, to Africa and New Zealand, and Australia and back to South America,” said Denevan.
He hopes that honoring the people who bring nourishment to the table will spread around the world.