The following was published in the Floyd Press on September 20, 2007.
The "beef naturally" sausage dished up by Larry Bright of Bright's farm in Floyd was a hit. There was a line of people at the main tasting tent waiting to sample Paul Hooper's pasta sauce. Jim Politis, of Riner's Buffalo Store fame, provided a crock pot full of buffalo meat slow-cooked in its own juices.
I met these vendors and others at the third annual Taste of Floyd, a fundraising event sponsored by Slow Food USA in conjunction with the Floyd Harvest Festival. It was hosted by the Harvest Moon Food Store, which is a member of the Blue Ridge Convivium, an offshoot of Slow Food USA.
According to the Slow Food USA website, they are a non-profit educational organization dedicated to supporting the social and economic benefits of a sustainable food system, regional food traditions, the pleasures of the table, and a slower and more harmonious rhythm of life.
Colorful vending tents and tables alongside the Harvest Moon parking lot housed a variety of locally produced foods. But there were also soaps and lotions to sample made by Willis resident, Alice Moyer, owner of Shady Grove Soaps. There was mead from Dugspur's Blacksnake Farm Winery and cider from Foggy Ridge Farm to be sipped. Fred First was selling note cards featuring his photographs of Floyd County scenes, and his book, which seemed aptly named for the event, A Slow Road Home: A Blue Ridge Book of Days.
Slow Food volunteer, Gretchen St. Lawrence, said the tents went up the night before in the rain. She was happy for a sunny day and for having only the wind to contend with.
While shifting through brochures from some of the small local businesses being represented, I overheard a woman ask Paul Hooper, the Martinsville owner of Hooper's Pasta Sauces, if he grows his own tomatoes. He joked that the world would not be a better place with him as a farmer.
"Everything is homemade in small batches," he offered, but was tight lipped about the ingredient sources for his special recipes, the names of which included Basil-icious, The Angry Tomato (hot), Happy Hour (made with vodka), and Marinara Sauce.
Browsing by the festively designed booths, I stopped to chat with Sarah Shannon from Weathertop Farm in Check. I recognized the farm name and told her I had purchased her eggs before, which are sold at The Harvest Moon. I learned that her family farm, which includes her husband Cedric, children, and in-laws, produces pasture-raised chickens, pigs, rabbits, and turkeys.
Looking at photos of Weathertop Farm turkeys reminded me of Barbara Kingsolver, the bestselling author who attended A Taste of Floyd last year and later gave a well-attended talk at Floyd County High School. At the time, Barbara and her family had just moved to Virginia and she was writing Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, a book about spending an entire year eating only food she grew herself or purchased from neighborhood farms. At the Floyd high auditorium talk, Barbara read a hilarious chapter from the book about a turkey that took a particular liking to her husband.
Margie Reddit, the Harvest Moon owner, told me that Barbara was invited to this year's event but wasn't able to attend because of her book touring schedule.
On the Harvest Moon lawn, under a blue and gold tent, customers were sipping glasses of wine. Volunteers were taking orders and serving lunch cooked with all local ingredients by Over the Moon chef Scott Hutchinson. I recognized the voice of Floydian Tina Liza Jones, singing "Mama's Little Baby Loves Shortening Bread," coming from a neighboring tent, so I moved in closer to listen.
"Are you going to sing all songs about food?" I jokingly asked her. Her husband was accompanying her banjo with a fiddle. Another fiddle player and a guitarist rounded out the group. When I asked her if she was playing with was a new band or jam group, she explained that they were a foursome of two married couples, dubbed "Double Date," just for their Taste of Floyd gig. Other music provided throughout the day was also homegrown. Sally Walker sang before Double Date's set, and Grace Note also performed while I was there.
When talking with Sarah from Weathertop Farm she told me that her family sometimes uses meat processing equipment from Bright's Farm, a neighboring county farm that raises pasture raised pork and chickens, as well as beef that contains no prophylactic antibiotics, steroids, or growth hormones. I was impressed with the cooperative community spirit between local farms and saw more of that when I visited the Good Food - Good People (GFGP) booth.
Tenley Weaver from Full Circle Farm and Brett and Johanna Nichols from Five Penny Farm are owners of certified organic farms in Floyd and GFGP members. Their displays - next to the Indigo Farm Seafood truck and behind a table of Ethiopian cuisine - stretched across the back of the vending tent area and, because of the wide variety of products offered, resembled a grocery store aisle. Fresh garlic, local honey and molasses, exotic eggplant and squash varieties, cut flowers, baskets full of apples and potatoes, and tomatoes of varying shapes and color made a vibrantly attractive presentation.
A general event fee of $3 included more tasting inside the Harvest Moon, where cheeses from Meadow Creek Dairy in Galax, peanut butter made with Virginia peanuts, South Carolina rice, and tea from the Carolina Tea Plantation were available for sampling.
"It's the only tea grown in this country," Harvest Moon staffer, Katherine Chantal said.
~ Originally posted on looseleafnotes.com on September 24, 2007.