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  • Randall Benton /

    Visitors admire a large combine parked along Capitol Mall during the inaugural Farm to Fork festival on Capitol Mall in Sacramento on Saturday, September 28, 2013.

  • Randall Benton /

    Mark Breunig of Loomis is photographed with the 'California Fresh' tomato during the inaugural Farm to Fork festival on Capitol Mall in Sacramento on Saturday, September 28, 2013.

  • Randall Benton /

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Farm-to-Fork Festival draws thousands to Capitol Mall

Published: Saturday, Sep. 28, 2013 - 11:39 pm
Last Modified: Sunday, Sep. 29, 2013 - 12:12 am

Thousands of foodies, farmers and wine connoisseurs clogged Capitol Mall on Saturday for Sacramento’s first Farm-to-Fork Festival.

The event is part of a weeklong campaign aimed at promoting the city’s title as the “Farm-to-Fork Capital of America,” which regional leaders proclaimed last October.

The festival had a little bit of everything, including small farms hawking olive oil and advocacy groups educating citizens about cows. For Ying Wang and his family, the event was about scooping up as many free samples as possible. Around noon, Wang, a 22-year-old UC Davis student, was juggling two oversized canvas bags filled to the brim with vegetables, brochures and other goods.

“(My parents) got a lot of stuff,” said Wang, wearing a colorful sleeveless shirt and sandals on a sunny afternoon.

The Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau sponsored the event and said about 100 vendors showed up. The Farm-to-Fork campaign, which included a downtown cattle drive on Monday, will culminate this evening with a $175-a-plate dinner on Tower Bridge. Six hundred people are expected to attend.

Mike Testa, senior vice president with the bureau, said the Farm-to-Fork initiative will be a boon for area restaurants and farms.

“You know you will eat well in Sacramento,” he said.

A big yellow tractor stood guard on one corner of the mall, while a giant red supermarket cart rested nearby. People rushed to pose with the two props and with live farm animals shuttled to the venue.

Organizers said they expected tens of thousands to stream through by the day’s end but that they were not keeping track of attendance. Vendors, which included a multitude of national chains, did not pay for space at the festival, Testa said.

At the Passmore Ranch booth, passers-by looked on in awe as half a dozen fish swam inside a gigantic tank. The ranch outside of Wilton raises thousands of fish each year for area restaurants, said Sean Boyle, the chief fishmonger.

“We’ve seen a steady climb in business in recent years,” Boyle said.

The business plans soon to sell a limited number of fish to the public.

Meanwhile, the California Restaurant Association hailed the Farm-to-Fork festivities as a rebirth for the region’s restaurant scene.

“This has been really helpful for showcasing what restaurants were already doing,” said Alison Zander, the group’s membership development manager. “It has really put Sacramento on the map as a dining destination.”

Ray and Helen Gongora, a couple in their 50s, said they learned a lot and ate a lot.

“Dixon corn, it’s the best. I don’t even have to put butter on it,” Helen Gongora said, showing off a cob of glistening white kernels.

Call The Bee’s Richard Chang, (916) 321-1018. Follow him on Twitter @RichardYChang

Read more articles by Richard Chang

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