3rd Annual Autumn Harvest Feast

by Landon Bubb, AFM Public Outreach Intern

As a hyper involved student juggling work, academics, extracurriculars, and a social life, one thing led to another my life was spiraling into a pit of midterms being held loosely together by a gallons of coffee and endless farmers market veggies. So since someone hasn’t written a blog post in two weeks... you might not have heard much about the 3rd Annual Autumn Harvest Feast created by the Athens Farmers Market. Short answer: it was magical.

Scumbag meteorologists forecasts heavy rain on the prettiest day of the year.

Photo courtesy of Lyric Lewin Photography

For the past three years, the Autumn Harvest Feast has highlighted the talents of local farmers, chefs, and bakers while benefitting the Athens community by raising funds for Wholesome Wave Georgia. To celebrate the harvest season, major chefs of Athens create a dish that highlights their individual talent and local farm fresh food. Entertainment for the evening was provided by the folk stylings of String Theory with the intermittent inspirational speeches by Randall Abney, Todd Lister of Veribest Farms, and special guest Pete McCommons. Refreshments were supplied by Michael Slater of National Distributing, Terrapin Beer, 1000 Faces Coffee and Daily Groceries Co-Op. It truly was the best of the best in terms of food, music, drink, and company. Sometimes as a student, it’s easy to get stuck in the strange world of 18-22 year olds whose “community” extends from campus to downtown. But events like this illuminate the rich culture of music, food, intellect, activism, and friendship that makes Athens truly great.

The chefs all truly personified the major objective of the Athens farmers market by rebuilding the connection between the food, producer, and you. Food was all prepared and served by elite local chefs that define Athens’ rich food culture. There are few other times where you get the opportunity to directly engage with your chef while schmoozing alongside local farmers. If you haven’t eaten any/all of the participating chefs' restaurants, get on that ASAP. Here's who participated:

  • Peter Dale - The National
  • Josh Aaron - The Savory Spoon
  • Chris Rountree - Heirloom Cafe
  • Kyle Jacovino - Five & Ten
  • Jakob Schmalenberger - The Capital Room
  • Janice Witcher - Harry's BBQ & Epting Events
  • Jarod Blanton - The World Famous
  • Chuck Ramsey - Pulaski Heights BBQ
  • Mimi Maumus - Home.made Catering
  • Aaron Phillips - Last Resort Grill
  • Vanessa Molina - Echo
  • Matthew Palmerlee - The Branded Butcher 

Cast iron cornbread with tasso gravy from Five and Ten and Echo’s Marinated Kale Salad

photo courtesy of Lyric Lewin Photography

The event itself was a hoot and a half. I’ve been slowly meeting farmers and regular attendees through regular attendance at the farmers market. It was really fun seeing everyone including the Mama Bird’s Granola lady, the woman from the Daily Co-op, and the friendly bread people all dolled up and at such a serene venue. The Hill could not have been more pristine. Tucked away off Jefferson Road just outside Athens, the venue provided the cozy southern charm of Athens with the dense forests I’ve come to love. Early 19th century homes, and barns dot the property providing a surreal beauty. Apparently the day before the feast they hosted a wedding and regularly host receptions and ceremonies.

Ticket sales, the silent auction, and gracious donations all helped raise money for Wholesome Wave Georgia. Wholesome Wave Georgia is responsible for the doubling SNAP benefit program at the Athens Farmers market as well as 20 other markets across the state. The doubling of these benefits helps to alleviate the costs of fresh food for many residents of Athens. Through this pprogram at the market, we are actively addressing environmental responsibilities, restructuring our food systems, and eating well. Having a steady income allows most of us the ability to buy organic, local, and sustainably produced food without much thought. Yet the money raised through collective altruism fundamentally impacts so many who might not have access to fresh fruits and vegetables. It truly warms my heart that through this one event an incredible $12,500 was raised. You rock Athens.

Assorted jams from Lindsey’s Culinary Market with Greendale Farms cheese

photo courtesy of Lyric Lewin Photography

 There really are no losers when it comes to delicious food that supports your local community, but two participating chefs stuck out as having taken things to another level. Peter Dale of The National and Lindsey Payne of Lindsey’s Culinary Market both incorporated pears harvested from an onsite pear tree no farther away than 50 feet. Dale’s salad table was a smidge closer than Lindsey’s cheese and jam table but we’ll call it a tie. I didn’t have Dale’s salad but if it’s anything like his creations at The National I assume it was a magical blend of flavors which highlighted the subtle tones of the pears. Lindsey’s preserves and salsas perfectly complemented cheeses from Greendale Farms of Madison County. The firm succulence of the pear jam combined with the creamy tartness of fresh goat cheese was heavenly. By the time I was done manning the bar (slash disappointing everyone when the white wine ran out), I got to pick over all the food that remained. Lindsey was incredibly hospitable in letting us volunteers gorge on her cheese and jam. They both took advantage of their resources and peared local with tasty.

The act of feasting brings us all together remarkable ways. The sharing of food and libations has a profound ability to deepen relations, support community, and nurture the soul. I encourage you to reanalyze where your food comes and who cooks it. And you really don’t have to be a five star chef to host your own harvest feast because truly magical things happen when family, friends, and new acquaintances gather over wholesome food.

For more pictures check out the Album on our Facebook page.