HAZARD—Citizens of Hazard and Perry County—and even the city itself—got dressed up and ready over the weekend for the first ever outdoor dining experience benefiting the Perry County Farmers’ Market.
The event, “The Main Course: A Farm to Table Dining Experience,” was hosted in downtown Hazard, at the People’s Park on Main Street, Saturday evening. Jason Brashear, a volunteer with North Fork Local Foods, a local nonprofit which sponsored the event, was likely something Hazard had never seen before—but would hopefully be able to see again on a regular basis.
“‘The Main Course,’ was a farm-to-table dining experience celebrating our local producers here in Perry County, and benefiting our farmers’ market,” Brashear said. “Specifically, what we were raising money for … is for the cost-share for the Community Farm Alliance’s (CFA) Farmers’ Market Support Program.”
Brashear explained that the Perry County Farmers’ Market is a part of the CFA’s support group, which provides technical assistance as well as cost-share moneys for certain farmers’ market programs, like the double dollars program.
“At this point, anybody that comes to our market can purchase food with SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) dollars (or food stamps), and we will double that up to $10,” he said. “So, if you want to come and spend $10 of your SNAP, we’ll actually give you $10 more so you’ll actually have $20 to spend.”
CFA provides a base, or starting funds, for the double dollars program. Farmers’ markets like the one in Perry County have to come up with matching funds from the community, Brashear explained. He added that fundraisers such as “The Main Course” also help fund jobs for the farmers’ market, such as the newly appointed market manager for the Perry County Farmers’ Market.
Brashear went to to explain that by “a farm to table dining experience,” event organizers literally meant the food that would be served at the outdoor dinner would be produced and cooked within the region.
“It was all locally sourced, and, for the most part, everything came from within Perry County and from the surrounding counties that touch Perry County,” Brashear said.
The four-course meal consisted of what Brashear called a “biscuit basket,” containing locally made biscuits and local honeys and jams, along with brown sugar bacon—which Brashear made; a fresh greens salad with a sorghum vinaigrette and grilled peaches; roasted pork and goat with a vegetable gratin, grilled vegetables, and creamed corn; and a berry tart with lavender whipped cream.
“I was in the kitchen all day long—I was on the kitchen team helping to cook everything— and by the time it was all done I was stuffed,” Brashear laughed.
Brashear said the event nearly didn’t happen, after original plans to have a local restaurant—the Treehouse Cafe and Bakery—fell through when the business closed its doors only a month before the event was scheduled to happen.
Without the help of the entire community, Brashear said it would have been almost impossible to have the event at all, let alone have it be as successful as it was.
“I don’t want to start naming names because I will forget somebody,” Brashear said when questioned about who had a hand in pulling the event together. “It was a definitely a conglomeration of volunteers!”
The event was able to garner around $2,500 for the market, with around 55 tickets sold to the event, Brasher said. And though “The Main Course” was a huge success for the market and the local food supporters in the area, it was also a win for the area itself, he added.
“Anytime we can bring people downtown, it’s a good thing. I’m still a firm believer that Main Street and downtown is the heartbeat of a community, and I think we’ve got to have more events like this downtown to show people that, hey, Main Street’s not a bad place. We can come down here, we can have events, we can have fun, and it’s a fun, cool, safe place to do it,” he said.
Brashear said anyone who may have missed out on this year’s “The Main Course” should get ready for next year’s—and possibly similar events that are in the works for later this year.
“I feel that we will continue doing this for the farmers’ market every year,” he said. “I think it’s good to do stuff like this, and maybe it’s out of the ordinary, but that’s what makes it great.”
Amelia Holliday can be reached at 606-436-5771, or on Twitter @HazardHerald.