Aspen’s annual Farm-to-Table feast goes virtual this year to deal with challenge
The folks at the Farm Collaborative came up with a creative solution to a problem that threatened to derail their annual community feast this year.
The nonprofit organization has held a Farm-to-Table Community Meal for 11 consecutive years in November, the past four or five at the Hotel Jerome ballroom. But the ballroom is being redecorated this fall so Farm Collaborative considered other options.
They didn’t feel any other venue was suitable, executive director Eden Vardy said. They could have thrown in the towel and skipped a year but felt it was important to keep the tradition alive.
“We really wanted to still do something for a community gathering and we wanted to purchase food from our farmers,” he said Monday.
Continuing the event is important from a community standpoint because the gathering traditionally kicks off the winter season. In addition, it is one of the few events Aspen still holds that brings together people from all walks of life, Vardy said. It attracts everyone from the seasonal workers to wealthy homeowners on Red Mountain.
About 1,500 people attend the feast, which features food from the Roaring Fork Valley and western Colorado region. About 250 people, including chefs, volunteer their time to pull it off.
The purpose is to not only highlight community in the true sense of the word, but showcase what local farmers are growing.
“This year, we were already talking to some farmers this spring” about food that could be purchased for the event, Vardy said.
So Vardy and his staff got creative and created a virtual feast. For one year only, the Farm Collaborative, formerly known as Aspen TREE, will distribute free farm-to-fridge shares, freshly harvested from local growers. Participants will get ingredients — mostly root vegetables and squashes — to feed up to six people. They’re calling it “take and bake style” this year.
Participants are urged to share recipes and pictures of their gatherings on the Farm Collaborative’s website. A handful of recipes from cooks who have helped with the event in the past will be included in the shares.
“We’d love for everybody to still participate,” Vardy said.
Just like in past years, participants will have to get a ticket to ensure distribution is convenient and pick-up times are coordinated. Beginning Nov. 8, participants can reserve a share by visiting http://www.thefarmcollaborative.org. The shares will be distributed on Nov. 20 between 2 and 6 p.m. at the nonprofit organization’s FarmPark at Cozy Point Ranch.
“Once you have collected your free bag of ingredients, which will feed a family of five to six, and prepared a savory meal to share with your friends and family, we hope you will share photos of your feast with us on our website,” Britta Gustafson, Farm Collaborative’s communication director, said in an email. “In this way we can still experience our local food — in more of a virtual sense — with all of our community.”
The Farm Collaborative is looking for donations of reusable grocery bags. Contact Gustafson at firstname.lastname@example.org to help.
The Farm-to-Table Feast will return to the Hotel Jerome next year.
“We love hosting the dinner,” Travis Christ, the Hotel Jerome’s director of operations, said in a statement, “and we are extremely excited for the event to return in 2020.”
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