New River Organic Growers hosts fresh farm dinner

By Frank Ruggiero (frank@mountaintimes.com)



Article Published: Apr. 3 | Modified: Apr. 7

With the High Country Chef’s Showcase on April 6, New River Organic Growers plans to show the difference fresh can make.

Six chefs from different restaurants will join forces for a six-course meal at the New Public House & Hotel in Blowing Rock. Needless to say, this menu is far from ordinary, as New River Organic Growers’ marketer and chief operating officer Caleb Crowell will attest.

“We’re planning on having things harvested, I would say, hours before the meal,” he said. “Like our customers have always valued in our goods, the freshness is key to our success in local food.”

Restaurants that buy from New River Organic Growers, a farm cooperative based in Fleetwood, have that fresh advantage, one that customers can truly taste, Crowell said.

Folks can see for themselves at Sunday’s dinner. Tickets cost $60 apiece or $100 per couple and are available at http://www.newrivergrowers.com. The homegrown fun starts at 4 p.m., with a meet and greet. Several vendors and breweries will host booths, including Boone’s own Appalachian Mountain Brewery and Fonta Flora Brewery of Morganton.

“We’ll have booths set up, there’ll be drinks, and people can meet and greet with about 15 of our local growers that are members of the co-op,” Crowell said.

The meal’s expected to begin around 5:30 p.m., with dishes courtesy of chefs Michael Foreman of the New Public House, Sam Ratchford of Vidalia, Andrew Long of Mast Farm Inn, Edwin Bloodworth of The Gamekeeper, John Dean of G’s at Gideon Ridge and Nate Curtis of Rowland’s at Westglow.

“Each chef is preparing a course,” Crowell said, “…and there will probably be some collaboration between them, although they’ll be planning their own dishes separately.”

After the last course is served, the focus will shift toward a raffle, during which diners can purchase $5 tickets for a chance to win a bounty of gift certificates, products, services and more from local farmers, craftspeople and businesses, including Springhouse Farm, Megan Ward, Fishel’s Moravian Chicken Pies, Mountain Memories, Moretz Mountain Orchard, Sunshine Cove Farm, Wagon Wheel Farm, Zydeco Moon Farm, Golden Rod Gardens, Fishel Organics, Heritage Homestead, Against the Grain Farm, Berry Patch Farm, Lily Patch Farm, Shady Grove Gardens, Footsloggers, Peabody’s Wine & Beer Merchants, Mellow Mushroom, Bald Guy Brew, Foscoe Fishing Company, Bare Essentials Natural Market, Ashe County Cheese, Vannoy Hams and Mast General Store.

“The dinner is partly due to the strong support we get from these local chefs and customers, as well as an interest in putting something together after Fire on the Rock (competition dining series) left, but maybe more like a collaborative dining kind of thing,” Crowell said. “When I talk about support, chefs are oftentimes buying from our local growers, as opposed to cheaper products from out of state. We do consider them partners in our local food growth, and these are buyers we’ve worked with pretty consistently over the past four years or more.”

The dinner will also serve as a fundraiser for NROG, which currently has approximately 70 farms in its membership, including members in Watauga, Ashe, Avery, Alleghany, Yancey and Burke counties. “New growers get picked up constantly,” Crowell said.

Proceeds from the dinner will help NROG expand its operations into the Asheville and Charlotte areas.

“There’s a high demand for High Country-grown produce down the mountain, when the season is too hot there to be producing,” Crowell said. “We’ve had a lot of strong demand off the mountain, and we’re looking to expand into that.”

According to its mission statement, NROG aims to provide fresh produce and humanely raised meats to consumers in North Carolina, while preserving farmland by improving the success of local farms and pooling resources for marketing and transport, bulk purchasing of farming supplies, the sharing and coordination of information and educating the general public about the benefits of sustainable, local farming.

“Our growers and buyers are really dedicated to what we’re doing, and that’s really key,” Crowell said.

For more information on the High Country Chefs Showcase and New River Organic Growers, visit http://www.newrivergrowers.com. The New Public House & Hotel is located at 239 Sunset Drive in downtown Blowing Rock.

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