The focus of festivals and farmers’ markets can get a little blurry, but at the fourth annual Redland GrowFest this weekend, the star of the show will be crystal clear: locally-grown foods.
Starting Saturday at 9:30 a.m. at the Fruit and Spice Park, the two-day event aims to connect the community with the sources of their food and get people excited about seeking out the freshest ingredients possible. Marking the start of the growing season provides the perfect opportunity to spark some agriculture love.
With educational booths, cooking demonstrations, prepared foods for sale and more, GrowFest is putting the spotlight on native seeds.
Organizer Margie Pikarsky calls it “a celebration of all local things edible, green and growing.”
The event will honor the true meaning of the locally-grown label, which can easily get lost in the whirlwind of the trend. Only vendors who sell produce grown within the South Florida area are permitted to attend, and artisan and food vendors are required to use at least some local ingredients. All seeds and plants sold will be native to the area, and preference was given to locally-based businesses during the vendor application process. Even artists will be showcasing these edible ingredients in their exhibits.
At the heart of the festival, though, is the growing itself. The farm-to-table conversation is so often centered around the harvest, but the GrowFest team feels we need to take a peek at the other end of the process.
Groups like the Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services and the Dade County Farm Bureau will be providing informative presentations and workshops to demonstrate the benefits of local produce and plants — and according to Pikarsky, there are many.
“It’s got the best chance to be the freshest you can get,” Pikarsky said. “It’s okay to have some exotic food from around the world once in a while, but you don’t need this on a daily basis.”
Not only is local food healthier, better for the environment and just plain old delicious, but it also helps stimulate the local economy and keep income cycling through our own community.
“That money is going directly from a local pocket to a local pocket – it’s not going to a big corporation, it’s not leaving the area,” Pikarsky said. “There’s a multiplier effect to that. So in many ways, it really helps the area and the local economy to thrive and it keeps farmers going.”
New to GrowFest is a Chopped-esque cook-off challenge that will take place on Sunday. Five chefs will each receive a mystery box of seasonal (and of course local) ingredients to use in creative dishes to be evaluated by a team of three judges.
Each year, GrowFest selects a beneficiary that shares their goal of furthering knowledge of local agriculture. This year’s selection is the Redland Farm Life Culinary Center, a project that’s currently in the works to become a hub for information and access to locally-grown ingredients, teaching students about our very own tropical crops.
The historic Redland Farm Life School will celebrate its 100th year in 2016, and the opening of its culinary center is highly anticipated.
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“[The building] is basically an empty shell waiting for this project to happen,” Pikarsky said.
Delicious bites, artistic exhibits and even musical performances will spice up the weekend, but while you dance to bluegrass tunes and indulge in local flavors, you’ll also learn new things about what’s growing right in our own backyard.
“We’re trying to raise awareness for the food that grows here,” Pikarsky said. “Everything from putting that first seed in the ground, to then what the heck you can do with it … all the strange stuff we grow here that people don’t know about.”
Saturday, October 17, and Sunday, October 18, at Fruit & Spice Park, 24801 SW 187th Ave., Homestead. Tickets are $8, children under 12 free; redlandgrowfest.com.