The dusk of a Kansas City summer day can be cause for celebration as the sun dips down behind the horizon, granting reprieve from the heat and welcoming the comforts of the cooler nightfall.
On this particular June evening, the sunset of a hot Wednesday in downtown Kansas City was the setting of a different kind of celebration — one of food, art and local farming as Bread! KC, Plug Projects and Cultivate KC hosted Local Earth to feed the community while raising funds to aid local farmers.
The unique cross-pollination of local spirit was part of a week of Urban Grown festivities such as “The Future of Food” lecture of New York Times writer Mark Bittman and capping off with the ever-expanding annual Urban Grown Farms Tour this weekend.
As with the other events, Local Earth served to highlight the powerful possibilities of local farming through a dinner served by Bread! KC, an open house at the City Ice Arts space and a grant presentation by three local farmers.
The $15 entrance fee went into a grant pool to be given out to one of the three presenting farmers following a vote by the satisfied diners, all lining communal tables in the open air of the field adjacent to the City Ice Arts building.
There was much conversation to be had over drinks and food as the traveling cocktail club Hawthorne and Julep served two cocktails brimming with apropos local farmed ingredients such as Cultivate KC’s rhubarb, cucumbers and mint pairing with Dark Horse Distillery’s Reserve Bourbon and Ryder Vodka. Oddly Correct featured a refreshingly chilled, hop infused Hop!Toddy for those seeking a non-alcoholic respite from the heat.
The drinks were served early while people browsed the City Ice Arts open house featuring the Local Earth art exhibit as well as works by Double Rainbow print shop and more. As the sun faded, an idyllic summertime atmosphere set in as diners broke bread, sipped their drinks and conversed with the wide variety of community members who had come out to support the causes.
Bread! KC’s dinner menu highlighted local farms and food purveyors like Howard’s Organic, Lucky Star, Paradise Meats and Farm to Market Bread with dishes like smoked short ribs, meat loaf and salads of farm fresh egg or local greens.
Tori Gatlin of the Santa Fe Neighborhood Community Garden, Kendall Kerr of the Kansas City Academy, and Jana Loflin of Sprout all gave presentations highlighting the goals of the community gardens for which they sought Bread! KC’s unique form of grant money, or bread if you will.
After the audience had heard the pitches, they took pencil to paper and voted on which one to fund with the night’s collective proceeds. Sprout was the audience’s choice, but all three gave thorough accounts of the communities they are a part of and how they wished to improve them with the aid of the new funds.
Tori Gatlin’s presentation brought to light the issue of food deserts in the metro area — those places without nearby access to fresh fruits, vegetables and meats.
Though only one could be chosen, the fact that three different community voices were able to be heard by a wide swathe of ages, interests and backgrounds is one of the truly great aspects of an event like Local Earth and the Urban Grown Farms and Gardens Tour.
It is a chance for interactivity between farmers and the community that furthers the cause of getting great local and healthy products into the hands and mouths of people throughout Kansas City.
As Sean Starowitz, who along with Andy Erdrich and Erin Olm-Shipman make up Bread! KC, puts it, “We’re doing what Alice Waters only dreams of doing, which is bringing food and culture together and that’s what Bread! KC is. It’s a perfect marriage of two things that are symbiotic.”
That unique hybridization of community and culture through food and art was on full display this summer night as many members of Kansas City’s thriving creative culture came together and ate, talked, listened and gave back to the local farms working to feed us all.
Tyler Fox, personal chef/event caterer who emphasizes ‘nose-to-tail’ cooking philosophy as well as vegan and local/farm to table foods.