Food & Drink

Meat, whiskey and Lukas Nelson: 5 things to know about Farm-To-Fork festival in Sacramento

Setup has already begun around Capitol Mall for the Farm-To-Fork Festival this weekend in downtown Sacramento.

Free admission and blocks of locally-sourced food and drink vendors remain constant from years past, as does the exclusive Tower Bridge Dinner on Sunday night to raise money for next year’s festival, said Visit Sacramento spokeswoman Kari Miskit.

“(The Farm-To-Fork Festival) is in many ways quintessential Sacramento. On every block you’re going to see some (vendor) you know or you’ve read about or you’ve wanted to try,” Miskit said. “All day long, it really is an immersive experience.”

This year’s festival has a few new or relatively new additions, though. Here are five things to know about the 2019 Farm-to-Fork Festival:

Street vendors

For the second year in a row, the Farm-To-Fork Festival will ease into Saturday’s mile-long smorgasbord with a more mellow Friday night warm-up. Friday night festivities kick off at 4 p.m. and run until 9 p.m., but will take up just half the space and won’t include any cooking demonstrations.

Saturday’s event will span 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Third to Eighth streets along Capitol Mall. An estimated 140,000 people attended last year’s festival over the two days, and attendance has risen every year, Visit Sacramento CEO Mike Testa said.

“It’s to celebrate the region,” Testa said. “Farm-to-Fork is obviously about the food that’s grown here and the diversity of the crops, and this is the party to celebrate that.”

Whiskey and meat

Kentucky-based whiskey Knob Creek will make its debut at the Farm-To-Fork festival, which has generally excluded companies that don’t grow or produce their food in the Sacramento area.

National food and drink brands inquire about participating in the festival all the time only to be rejected, Miskit said. What made Knob Creek different was the brand’s willingness to make cocktails using produce grown in the Sacramento area, paired with complimentary tastes of grilled Rancho Llano Seco meats.

“Maybe when you go home on a Friday night after you have the drink at the festival, it’s, ‘Hey, I can go to the farmers market on Saturday and pick this up from this little farm and mimic the same drink at home,’” Miskit said.

Visit Sacramento previously took heat for allowing Pizza Guys to operate a stand at the festival, Testa said, but did so because the statewide chain buys all the tomatoes for its sauce from Sacramento-area growers.

Lukas Nelson concert

This won’t be the first festival Lukas Nelson has headlined, but his father Willie has played a few more.

Nelson and his band Promise of the Real, formerly the musicmakers supporting Neil Young and John Fogerty, will take the Bank of America Stage at 4:30 p.m. Saturday. He also wrote songs for last year’s Academy Award-winning “A Star Is Born,” in which Bradley Cooper played a troubled musician based on Nelson, and recently released the farm-friendly title track to his new album “Turn Off the News (Build a Garden).“

Paradise resident Nate Smith, whose post-Camp Fire song “One of These Days” reached the Top 50 on the iTunes country charts, will also perform at the Bank of America Stage from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday.

Kings, Republic FC at festival

The Sutter Health Active Kids Zone is back at the festival’s east end with an assist from the Sacramento Kings, who will host basketball-related activities for the first time between Seventh and Eighth streets on Capitol Mall.

Republic FC will also be back with games for kids, who are welcome throughout the family-friendly festival. A petting zoo will return as well, plus a new jungle gym inside a converted school bus, Miskit said.

Butchers, coffee, sheep shearing

Live demonstrations of food-making or farm life are the highlight of many visitors’ days, Miskit said. This year, there are Saturday demonstrations on sheep shearing (11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.), coffee brewing (1 to 2 p.m.) and how to make focaccia (3 to 4 p.m.)

The Acura Stage will be all-butchery from 1 to 5 p.m., including the introduction of captains for all 16 national teams participating in the World Butchers’ Challenge next summer. A butchery competition featuring Adam Schultz of The Waterboy, Brock Macdonald of LowBrau, and former Selland Family Restaurants Group executive chef Ravin Patel is also scheduled to take place.

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Benjy Egel covers local restaurants and bars for The Sacramento Bee as well as general breaking news and investigative projects. A Sacramento native, he previously covered business for the Amarillo Globe-News in Texas.