Since Sacramento’s first official Farm-to-Fork Celebration three years ago, the local-sourcing idea has suffused the city’s food scene.
Produce’s provenance now is expected to be within 150 miles of Sacramento at any restaurant above the Denny’s level. The much-ballyhooed new Kings arena, Golden 1 Center, has proudly declared it will sell hot dogs from Fairfield and chicken tenders from the Central Valley when it opens in October.
Word also has spread outside the region. In July, an international food bloggers convention previously held in Seattle and New Orleans was hosted by Sacramento. The capital city’s farm-to-fork fervor also seems to have at least partially inspired a recent San Francisco Chronicle travel section devoted to Sacramento.
With the message so thoroughly disseminated year-round, how can the city’s official September celebration still seem like a special event?
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“We look at the (September) event similar to how you would look at an amusement park, like Disneyland,” said Mike Testa of Visit Sacramento (formerly Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau), chief marketer of the city’s farm-to-fork initiative. “They always give you new rides and new reasons to come back.”
Sacramento’s fourth, nearly 3-week-long Farm-to-Fork Celebration – which began Sept. 7 with another Guinness World Record-breaking food drive that brought in 490,000-plus pounds of fresh produce and will culminate Sept. 25 with the (sold-out) Tower Bridge Dinner – has added its own new attractions in 2016.
The Sept. 24 Farm-to-Fork Festival outdoor gathering now spans more blocks on Capitol Mall, running from Third to Ninth streets when it used to end at Sixth. Visit Sacramento also brought in bigger names for this year’s free-admission festival, for which the $199-per-plate Tower Bridge dinner is a fundraiser.
Las Vegas celebrity chef Rick Moonen will give a cooking demonstration at the festival (and help with the bridge dinner), and 1990s hitmakers the Wallflowers lead the festival’s live-music lineup.
The trend of Sacramento drawing events usually found in bigger cities will continue during the September festivities, with the inaugural Farm Tank Summit running Sept. 22-23 at the Hyatt Regency. The conference will bring together growers, supermarket representatives and sustainability and farmworker advocates for interactive panels and visits to local farms and food processors. It is produced in part by Food Tank, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit that encourages, according to its website, “safe, healthy, nourished eaters” around the world. Sacramento is site of one of three Food Tank summits this year in the United States. One happened in April in Washington; the other is scheduled for November in Chicago.
“Five years ago, when we were pitching Sacramento, we talked about the Crocker Art Museum, Gold Rush history and the nice weather,” Testa said. “Now when we are pitching Sacramento (outside the city), often the questions we are getting are about the food.”
Home-grown efforts also are augmenting this year’s celebration. On Sept. 14, California State University, Sacramento, will for the first time present its own farm-to-fork festival. Though its dinner for 176 people on the Guy West Bridge benefiting the campus food bank has sold out, there is plenty of space left at a free noon-3 p.m. festival that will include cooking demonstrations.
“A lot of our alumni are part of the Sacramento community, and are interested in getting back in touch with the campus,” Lynn Hanna, a festival organizer and an associate professor of food/dietetics in the university’s Family and Consumer Sciences department, said of the reasoning behind CSUS holding its own farm-to-fork events. “(And) we know there is a big need for students to learn about food systems. The fact we have a bridge coming into our campus made it very convenient.”
Below are more details on the Capitol Mall festival, Farm Tank Summit, CSUS festival and three other events (among the dozens scheduled) taking place during September’s Farm-to-Fork Celebration.
Sacramento State’s Farm-to-Fork Celebration
When: Festival noon-3 p.m.; speech by author Raj Patel at 6 p.m., both Wednesday, Sept. 14
Where: California State University, Sacramento, 6000 J St., Sacramento
From noon-3 p.m., a farm-to-fork festival on the University Library Quad will include cooking demonstrations and food trucks from which food can be purchased. At 6 p.m. at Guy West Plaza, Raj Patel, author of the book “Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System,” will deliver the festival’s keynote address. The speech precedes the sold-out dinner on the Guy West Bridge, but is free and open to everyone. Proceeds from the $50-a-plate dinner – planned and to be prepared by students in a food production and sustainability class – will benefit the on-campus food bank, which opened its doors last year.
“I have done some research on campus, and we definitely identified there are students having difficulty getting an adequate amount of food here,” said Hanna, the food/dietetics associate professor. Students on limited budgets either are not getting enough food or eating food without enough nutritional value. People who were unable to score tickets to the Sept. 14 dinner but who would like to contribute to the food bank can do so through the campus ticket office.
Legends of Wine
When: 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16
Where: West steps of the Capitol, 10th Street and Capitol Avenue
Cost: $65 (ages 21 and older)
Information and tickets: www.farmtofork.com/
The two “legends” are Sacramento’s internationally recognized wine and food authorities Darrell Corti and David Berkley. The oenophile-gastronomes consulted to choose the 38 wineries they believe best represent the area’s wine landscape. Each winery will pour two varietals, to be paired with artisan cheeses and breads, sausages and desserts.
“We’re supposedly the legends, but the wineries are the legends-in-making,” Corti said. “Some of them will be the stalwarts that return every year, and some will be new wineries from places people never thought wine would come from.”
The point of the event is to “show (attendees) that we live in the middle of plenty and we should be thankful for that,” Corti said. “Sacramento was famous in the 19th century for its vineyards, but people have forgotten.”
The other legend, Berkley, noted that Sacramento “is the bull’s-eye of this target of wineries and diverse viticultural areas and wine styles that surround us. At this event, you will meet the wine growers and winemakers. When you ask them questions, you will get an answers from people with direct knowledge.”
Friends On the Farm Dinner
When: 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17
Where: Hood Hops Ranch, 10036 Highway 160, Hood
Cost: $100 (ages 21 and older)
Information and tickets: friendsonthefarm.brownpapertickets.com/
Sacramento’s Track 7 Brewery will be the star of this spread, pairing its specialty beers with a cornucopia from La Venadita Mexican restaurant. The setting will be the 150-acre Hood Hops Ranch, 1 1/2 acres of which are devoted to hops. “We put them in because of the craft beer book,” said ranch owner Tom Ceccarelli.
Bee Line Blonde Ale, Scare D Kat, Sukahop IPA, Unrelenting Belgian-Style Stout and Fresh Hop Hoppy Palm Pale Ale (fresh-hopped from hops grown on the ranch) will meet the likes of chef Tom Schnetz’s pork-beef albondigas (meatballs), chilies rellenos, carnitas and many vegan and vegetarian dishes. Eat and drink all you wish.
When: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 18
Where: Old Town Elk Grove Farmers Market, 9615 Railroad St., Elk Grove
Note: Go to www.ilovemyfarmersmarket.com to enter the salsa contest.
A dozen farmers from as far away as Watsonville and as near as West Sacramento will compete for awards and braggin’ rights. They’ll bring their heirloom (Pink Brandywine, Carolina Gold and more) and cherry tomatoes (Jubilee, Sun Gold and more) to be judged in four categories: most beautiful, sweetest, meatiest and overall best-tasting. Plenty of samples will be offered. First and second places will be chosen in each category.
A salsa contest will also be part of it. “It’s always a lot of fun,” said Marie Hall, executive director of the sponsoring Living Smart Foundation. “Anybody can pre-register for the contest online or show up by 10:30 a.m. with a pint of salsa,” she said. Five judges will confer to choose their favorite, based on texture, creativity, aroma and taste.
Farm Tank Summit
When: Sept. 22-23
Where: Hyatt Regency Sacramento, 1209 L St., Sacramento.
Cost: $129 per day, $249 both days.
The hotel deals are gone, but tickets still are available for locals who want to attend this conference put on by Visit Sacramento, University of California, Davis, and the Washington, D.C., nonprofit Food Tank. The first day is devoted to interactive panels on such topics as food technology, transparency and infrastructure, and the second day to field trips to farms, food processors and youth-education programs.
When: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sept. 24
Where: Third to Ninth streets on Capitol Mall
Cost: Free (food and drink available for purchase)
This free event, funded by Tower Bridge dinner ticket sales, last year drew 50,000 people – up from 35,000 in 2014. Sixty-five vendors will appear at the festival, offering food and drinks for sale or just promoting their brands. The festival also holds a kids zone and cooking demonstrations. Its live music component offers links to food and farms as well.
Skylar’s Pool, featuring Paragary Group executive chef Kurt Spataro and his wife, KFBK afternoon news anchor Kitty O’Neal, are among the local bands supporting headliners the Wallflowers. That band is led by Jakob Dylan, whose father was anti-farmwork. At least at Maggie’s place.