Thousands of people filled Capitol Mall on Saturday to enjoy the fruits – and other food groups – of Sacramento’s growing farm-to-fork movement.
Mike Testa of Visit Sacramento, organizer of the fourth annual Farm-to-Fork Festival, estimated attendance between 60,000 and 65,000. Last year’s event drew 50,000 and organizers added two more blocks of vendors to this year’s event.
Crowds quickly filled up on six blocks of the mall to enjoy a variety of food, beer and wine, and watch cooking demonstrations and live music. The idea stringing it all together is to bring fresh food from area farmers to local restaurants and groceries, which has become a national trend, with Sacramento as one of its leaders.
Mike Testa of Visit Sacramento, the festival organizer, said the capital region deserves its status as a leader in the farm-fresh movement since it has 1.5 million acres of active farmland and produces 150 food products.
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“We produce food for the world,” he said. “That is worth celebrating.”
The costs of the festival are paid by the ticket receipts for the sold-out Tower Bridge dinner, which takes place Sunday evening.
The festival attracted 157 vendors and had to turn away requests from others, Testa said. The festival had a wide variety of food trucks, other food concessions, beer and wine gardens run by local brewers and wineries, as well as a large number of information booths set up to inform the public about farms and food. Bands played all day, including the Grammy-winning Wallflowers, headed by Bob Dylan’s son Jakob.
The longest lines formed for free food. Some people waited more than 10 minutes to go through a display by Save Mart that included stands with three kinds of tacos: grilled sturgeon (with strawberries), lamb and chicken.
“It was nice to be able to taste a little of everything,” said Alex San Martin of Sacramento, after trying the three tacos and declaring the lamb and chicken best. “The sturgeon was OK.”
Even longer lines formed for free food from Nugget Markets, a small chain based in Woodland. At one point, more than 100 people stood in line to enjoy the selection of deli, produce, bakery and cheese samples.
Stazi Dulman, executive chef for the grocer, said nearly all of the samples come from farmers within 100 miles of Sacramento.
“We really like to connect to our community, and this is a great way to do it,” he said.
Festival-goers had a wide range of other food to choose from, and some of the most popular options included barbecue oysters and grilled Asian skewers. Vendors also used creative means to get the attention of potential customers.
One vendor sold barbecue lamb with a sign saying, “Ewe know you love it.” Another vendor sold “5150 fries,” referring to the state code for detaining someone having a psychotic episode.
Editor’s note (Sept. 26): This story has been corrected to state that it was the fourth annual Farm-to-Fork Festival, not the third.