Local First and Holland Farmers Market hold inaugural tasting event


Holland Farmers Market, Local First and Coppercraft Distillery are collaborating on a fundraiser that celebrates local food. Courtesy Holland Farmers Market

Chefs and farmers are teaming up to create culinary dishes to tantalize community members’ palates at an inaugural event on the lakeshore that will highlight the synergy among local vendors, businesses and consumers.

Local First, a West Michigan organization supporting and advocating locally owned businesses, and the Holland Farmers Market, featuring more than 90 local vendors at the Eighth Street Market Place, announced Aug. 12 they would collaborate on an inaugural fundraising event, Gather: A Celebration of Local Food.

The event will be held at 184 120th Ave., Holland, in the Coppercraft Distillery facility on Tuesday, Sept. 9, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. as six area restaurant chefs partner with local vendors from Holland Farmers Market to create culinary dishes for attendees.

Several of the restaurants participating include: American Char, an all American smokehouse located in West Olive; Butch’s Dry Dock, a downtown Holland restaurant; and The Farmhouse Deli & Pantry, which offers Michigan cheeses and smoked meats in Douglas. Salt & Pepper Savory Grill and Pub and Salt of the Earth are two other local restaurants engaged in the cocktail-style dinner experience.

Those attending will be able to taste sample dishes at various stations, paired with cocktails from Coppercraft Distillery, Fenn Valley Winery, Our Brewing Company and Virtue Cider. They will also have the opportunity to interact with the farmers and chefs who collaborated on the dishes.

Kara de Alvare, marketing coordinator for Holland Farmers Market, said Gather is an event meant to expand services offered, engage the community and raise funds to support the market.

“We have so much positive feedback about the market and we hear from the community how much they appreciate the market and how much they treasure it,” said de Alvare. “We thought it would be great to do a farm-to-fork dinner that would hopefully raise some funds for the market to support our special events.”

Michele Lonergan, lakeshore membership coordinator for Local First, said with each chef preparing a food item using ingredients sourced from a favorite local farmer, the event is an opportunity for consumers to understand and celebrate the connection between the farmers and the restaurants.

“We believe that while farm-to-fork dinners tend to highlight chefs sourcing local ingredients, we felt that it was time to add an additional spotlight, and that spotlight (is) on the farmers themselves, the local food producers themselves,” said Lonergan. “This way we thought attendees will gain a deeper appreciation, not only the importance but also the joy of eating local, because they will see the connection between the farmer and the chef.”

Eight vendors from Holland Farmers Market are anticipated to provide locally grown ingredients and locally made products for the event: Country Winds Creamery, Groundswell Community Farm, Homestead Acers, Hoffer Greenhouses and Farms, The Local Epicurean, Visser Farms, Grand Daddy’s Kettle Corn and Ottawa Glad Growers.

De Alvare said the relationship among farmers, chefs and the community is extremely important.

“We are fortunate in West Michigan to have so many beautiful farms and the freshest product available right at our fingertips,” said de Alvare. “I think our area chefs do realize how fortunate they are to have these ingredients at their fingertips, and we see a lot of restaurants sourcing directly from vendors at the market. The money then stays in the local economy, so it is a win-win all the way around.”

With limited staff to oversee the marketing of the event, Holland Farmers Market partnered with Local First to assist in hosting the first culinary event bringing chefs and market vendors together. The two organizations have an existing working relationship due to the number of vendors at the Eighth Street Market Place who are members of Local First and a collaboration with the weekly chef series and cooking demonstrations.

“Local First seemed like a natural partner. They are huge proponents of the local food movement and we have a great working relationship with them, so we thought this would be fun to give this a shot,” said de Alvare.

Eating local is one method Local First uses to bring attention to how a slight shift in consumer spending to locally owned businesses can make a significant impact in the regional economy. A 2008 study of Kent County conducted by Local First, “Local works! Examining the Impact of Local Business on the West Michigan Economy,” found that a 10 percent shift in consumer spending to local companies resulted in 1,600 new jobs and more than $140 million in new economic activity.

“The easiest way to make that shift for people is, a lot of times, in the area of food,” said Lonergan in reference to a three-month campaign asking community members to shift 10 percent of spending. “It is a very easy way for people to start to shift some of their consumer spending to local food producers.”

The Gather event is sponsored by GMB Architecture and Engineering, United Federal Credit Union, WestEdge Realty and Zeeland Farm Services. Tickets are $75 per person, which includes food, beverages, two drink tickets and a dessert from JK’s Bakehouse & Deli, with coffee from Lemonjello’s Coffee.

“The local food conversation is really expanding and exploding on the lakeshore,” said Lonergan. “There is a real synergy happening between the farmer, the consumer and the restaurant.”

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