By GLYNIS VALENTI
Times Leader Staff Writer
WHEELING-It may be a surprise that in an area surrounded by farmland, people don't know more about how food they eat is raised and the part it plays in this economy. Oglebay Institute is taking steps to introduce consumers to farmers and chefs who encourage and support buying local.
Some local farmers offer not only freshly picked vegetables, but a variety as well. Strains of heirloom vegetables are part of this country’s history.
The "Farm to Table Culinary Tasting Event" on Sunday, Aug. 21 will showcase Ohio Valley bounty and talent on the grounds of the Stifel Fine Arts Center, 1330 National Road. From 1 to 4 p.m. ticket holders can enjoy live music while strolling from tent to tent, learning about the farms and sampling dishes prepared onsite from the farms' products.
"Farm to Table dining is one of the hottest trends in the food world today," explains Eriks Janelsins, director of Oglebay Institute's Schrader Environmental Education Center. "It has gained wide-spread popularity in recent years because consumers are paying far more attention to where and how their food is grown, processed and transported, in other words, how it gets from the farm to their table."
Farmer Eric Rubel, owner of Crossroads Farm in Belmont, says he's participating because he thinks it's important for people to know about their food. "Just because a package says 'free range' doesn't mean the animals are outside in fresh air grazing on grass. They are still kept in a building, but the building may have a tiny door where they have access to an outside yard that may look like a parking lot. There's no guarantee of the animal ever seeing the outside of the building." His (truly) grass-fed beef, lamb and chickens are a hit at the Ohio Valley Farmers Market.
Besides Rubel, other participating farmers include Holly Herbold of Her Bold Farm, Susan West of Lone Oaks Farm and Mick Luber. Chefs will also be purchasing from farmers markets on Saturday for other ingredients.
Chef Gene Evans, culinary arts instructor and assistant professor at West Virginia Northern Community College, says foods locally grown and sold at farmers markets are "about as fresh as you can get, so there's a huge difference in the flavor and quality of the food." Evans provides regular cooking demonstrations at the Ohio Valley Farmers Market using items available that day. As an instructor, he encourages students to work with what's available locally.
Chefs scheduled to present at Farm to Table include Evans, Mark Glass, Bethesda's Market; Craig Aubrey, Stratford Springs; Sarah Lydick, Sandscrest; and Charlie Schlegel, Ye Olde Alpha. Chefs and farmers will be available to discuss menu items. Misty Klug, Oglebay Institute notes, "By including the cooking demonstrations at this event we hope to illustrate how seasonally fresh food tastes better, is healthier and can be easily prepared."
Tickets are advanced sale only, $15 per adult and $10 per child. They can be purchased at the Schrader Environmental Center at Oglebay Park, Stifel Fine Arts Center, the Wheeling Farmers Market and the Ohio Valley Farmers Market in Bellaire and St. Clairsville. Klug says they've had a very good response. Proceeds will be divided among Oglebay Institute, the Ohio Valley Farmers Market, the Wheeling Farmers Market and West Virginia Northern Community College. For more information contact Oglebay Institute at (304) 242-8807.
Janelsins adds, "Guests will enjoy a wonderful culinary experience and get to see firsthand how eating local can be a simple, savory and healthy way to dine."