Homegrown food takes center stage at Farm Aid

Farm Aid’s commitment to promoting good food from family farms is almost as storied as the concert itself. When the food movement took hold in the decade after the fund-raising concert’s inception in 1985, organizers started to rethink how they filled concert-goers bellies during the daylong event. While there were always foods from a few family farmers backstage for the artists and staff, it wasn’t until 2006 that the venues’ concessionaires also made the transition.

“Most of us care more about food than farmers,” says associate director Glenda Yoder, “So we really explored how Farm Aid could reach eaters” with the same type of great family-farm food.

The answer was Homegrown Concessions, which made its debut in 2007 in New York, and is now the standard for food service at the annual music and food festival.

Legends Hospitality, the food and drink provider at Live Nation venues, has some pretty high standards. All ingredients have to be sustainably produced by family farmers using ecological practices, and farmers must receive a fair price for their products.  

“The margins are thin, increasing food costs are a challenge and vendors are not used to working with a completely transparent supply chain,” says Ms. Yoder, “but it’s a deal point.” Not to mention one that it has been incredibly successful. 

Saturday’s menu will feature humanely raised meat and dairy; local and organic produce; and bread made with organic flour. Ingredients will be sourced from local farms including Weatherbury Farm in Avella, Tiny Seed Farm in Hampton, Kistaco Farm in Apollo, Goat Rodeo Farm & Dairy in Indiana Township and Brunton Dairy in Independence, Beaver County.

Local food vendors include Conover Organic Farm, Pittsburgh Ice Cream Co., Republic Food Enterprise Center, Zeke’s Coffee and Lawrenceville’s Reed & Co (cold-pressed juices).

Bitter Ends Garden will be selling roasted beet sandwiches and  A Taste for Something Moore will have three types of chocolate-chip cookies made with Weatherbury flour on the menu. Two “Fresh Store” stands will feature local cheeses.

All the food at Farm Aid 2017 will be served on compostable serviceware.  Pittsburgh-based AgRecycle will process food scraps and trash into compost to sustain soil and future crops.

There also will be Homegrown Village where concertgoers can participate in hands-on food and farm activities, art projects and games; a skills area with demonstrations; and a FarmYard Stage where farmers will talk about issues. 

At the Homegrown Youthmarket, young people from Grow Pittsburgh will be selling local cheeses and whatever handheld fruit is in season — apples, pears and peaches. The nonprofit dedicated to teaching people how to grow food will participate in two pre-concert events — a roundtable discussion on Thursday about building food systems that revitalize economies, and an urban farm tour on Friday. 

“Pittsburgh has a wealth of localized supply chains that doesn’t exist in other places,” Ms. Yoder says. 

Marinated Beet Sandwich 

Becca Hegarty of Bitter Ends Garden developed this vegetarian sandwich for Farm Aid with musician Neil Young in mind. It will be served at the concert’s Homegrown Concessions featuring food from family farms. Not that he’ll have to pay. “Free sandwiches for life from our farm fueled by every Neil Young record forever,” she she noted on Instagram.

For beets

6 beets, scrubbed

1 tablespoon salt,

1 teaspoon fennel seed

Zest of half orange

1/2 teaspoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar

For dressing

1 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup each chopped chervil, parsley, tarragon and chives

3 cups olive oil

3 egg yolks

Salt and pepper

For sandwich

1/2 cup lettuce, tossed in olive oil and a splash of vinegar

4 thin slices of red onion

4 whole-wheat rolls

Prepare beets: Place scrubbed beets in a pot completely submerged with water. For every quart of water. add 1 tablespoon salt, 1 teaspoon fennel seed and zest of half an orange.

Boil beets until a knife can easily cut through one; drain. Peel beets by rubbing with a towel while still warm (the skin will come right off). Slice beets ¼-inch thick (you will have 4 cups) and toss with equal parts olive oil and red wine vinegar. Let cool.

Prepare dressing: Blend together buttermilk with herbs; set aside. Make an aioli by slowly whisking olive oil into egg yolks until thick and creamy. Add the buttermilk to the aioli until desired thickness is achieved. Season with salt and pepper. Aioli will store in the cool for 3 days.

To compose sandwich: Place 1 cup beets on a roll, and top with some dressed lettuce, a slice of red onion and 2 tablespoons dressing. 

Makes 4 sandwiches.

— Becca Hegarty, Bitter Ends Garden 


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