Plan Your Own Community Farm-to-Table Nutrition Education Event

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Here’s how we planned Harvest of Hope—a farm-to-table, community-based nutrition education program conducted on a real, working farm. Let it inspire you to create your own nutrition education program based on the local, sustainable plant foods in your own community. Read our other two blogs in our three-part series on farm-to-table nutrition education here and here.

Farm to table dinner on the farm at Harvest of Hope event.

The Vision

I’d dreamed of hosting an event like Harvest of Hope for years—a hands-on nutrition event for the community located right in the middle of a real working farm, showing people how easy it is to prepare a delicious plant-based meal using seasonal, local fruits and vegetables. The idea to bring people together around healthful, disease-preventative food in the place it was grown was so full of promise.

So, when Cheryl Casey, organizer and community outreach coordinator for Memorial Medical Center Cancer Services in Modesto, California, asked me to be a part of Harvest of Hope’s inaugural event, I knew this was meant to be. Casey and I had met a year before at a plant-based nutrition presentation I provided for a Modesto community cancer conference. During this wonderful event, I had provided practical information on how to include more cancer-preventative plant foods in the diet. The community response was so enthusiastic, Casey’s invitation to be a part of a more hands-on event for the community was the perfect opportunity to keep up the plant-power momentum.

La Rosa Family Farms was a great partner for hosting Harvest of Hope.

It Takes a Team

We were so fortunate to have La Rosa Family Farms in the community as our host! This family-owned and operated farm offered 60 acres of bountiful growing. Its connections to the community runs deep; the farm helped run a cooperative of fruit growers and provided produce to farm stands, farm-to-school programs, and local produce boxes and restaurants. La Rosa Family Farms was the perfect setting for Harvest of Hope. And, thank goodness for Casey. Had I tried to go it alone, I would have faced innumerable challenges for an event of this magnitude.

The first event in 2017 took a year and easily hundreds of hours to plan, which Casey and her team of volunteers enthusiastically managed. There were many considerations to be addressed, such as programming, scheduling, use of space, registration, toilets, parking, tents, lighting, electricity, tables, chairs, water, catering and promotion. We also enlisted community sponsorships to help supplement the event budget and we charged a small fee to attend, which included education, food, beverages, and entertainment. Marketing, such as print and social media, and posters in the community helped spread the word.

Somehow, our three stars aligned: a well-connected community outreach coordinator, who was our enthusiastic Casey; a hospital, such as Memorial Medical Center with the commitment to its community, local food, and nutrition; and a local farm, like La Rosa Family Farms, willing and able to host this large-scale event. Thus, two Harvest of Hope events have come to fruition.

With over 300 guests and about 75 staff and volunteers to help facilitate, this was no small feat. Yet, we all are still feeling its success. We were all so impacted by this event, we can’t help but look ahead to what future events will look like.

Chef Jesse Layman teaching a plant-based cooking class.

Make It Happen

The possibilities are limitless for a community, farm-based nutrition education event and that’s the best part; an event like this can look like anything and happen almost anywhere. Think small or large scale event planning, depending on what you have to work with. You might consider locating a space at a community garden, backyard garden, local farm, local orchard or farmers market for the closeness to local food and agriculture. Maybe you will host just a few presenters—a dietitian teaching about the nutrition of easy to grow plant foods, a local chef doing a cooking demonstration, and a home gardening workshop with hands-on experience.

Even if it’s an indoor event, make it happen by bringing the outside in! Decorate with farm photos, fresh greens and flowers, and an outdoor-inspired table, adorned with the fruits of a seasonal harvest. Presentations and workshops don’t have to be limited by a small, indoor space. Samples of freshly harvested vegetables and fruits, a workshop on window garden herbs, and a simple cooking class are all the ingredients needed.

I hope you’re feeling inspired! Our idea began as a tiny seed that was our vision. By partnering with Casey, Memorial Medical Center, and LaRosa Family Farms, it grew and sprouted momentum until it ripened into the beautiful event that both literally and figuratively nourished presenters and guests alike. It’s so important for communities to host events like this. Just think of the benefits of connecting your community to health professionals, local food, and disease prevention in a way that’s hands-on, meaningful, and practical.

Make sure to check out the first two blogs in our three-part series on farm-to-table nutrition education here and here.

Apple Cinnamon Crumble

Try offering this recipe as an example of fruit-forward, naturally sweet culinary education at your own community nutrition education event.

Serve dishes prepared in cooking demonstrations at the farm- to-table dinner at the end of the event. This recipe will leave guests on a healthy, sweet note.

Ingredients:

Filling:

  • 5 medium apples (5 ounces each), peeled, cored, sliced
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon

Crumb Topping:

  • 2/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup quinoa flour
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons soft dairy-free margarine spread

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. To make filling: Toss apple slices, orange juice and cinnamon together and arrange in a 10-inch pie dish.
  3. To make crumb topping: Stir oats, flour, walnuts, cinnamon and brown sugar together. Mix in margarine spread with a fork to make a crumbly dough. Sprinkle crumb topping over apple filling.
  4. Place dish in oven and bake for about 1 hour, until topping is golden brown and apples are tender yet firm.
  5. Remove from oven and serve while warm.

Serving Size: 8 ½-cup servings

Calories: 137, Sugar: 13 g, Sodium: 35 mg, Fat: 4 g, Saturated Fat: 1 g, Carbohydrates: 26 g, Fiber: 4 g, Protein: 2 g

Recipe by Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN, The Plant-Powered Dietitian, SharonPalmer.com

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Author: Sharon Palmer

Sharon Palmer, RDN, The Plant-Powered Dietitian™, is an award-winning food and nutrition expert, journalist, and editor. She is author of The Plant-Powered Diet: The Lifelong Eating Plan for Achieving Health, Beginning Today (The Experiment, 2012) and Plant-Powered for Life: Eat Your Way to Lasting Health with 52 Simple Steps & 125 Delicious Recipes (The Experiment, 2014). Sharon also is editor of Environmental Nutrition, nutrition editor of Today’s Dietitian, blogger for The Plant-Powered Blog, and publisher of her monthly The Plant-Powered Newsletter. Living in the chaparral hills overlooking Los Angeles with her husband and two sons, Sharon enjoys visiting her local farmers market, gardening, and cooking for friends and family.

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