Last Thursday I had the the pleasure of attending a really cool farm tour + farm-to-table dinner event that was hosted by the Western Dairy Association. The location was 5 Fridges Farm in Wheat Ridge, Colorado and it was full of informative agriculture talk, good food and great conversation with colleagues.
About 5 Fridges Farm
The event started with a farm tour led by the owner of 5 Fridges, Amanda Weaver. Since this is a small urban farm (literally right in the city) we walked around for just 30 minutes as she told us her story about earning a phD and then wanting to apprentice on a farm to get hands-on experience with what she was studying. Unlike other more large scale operations I've toured, 5 Fridges is utilized for research purposes and not designed with efficiency and affordable food in mind. The property is known as a conservation easement which means it's protected for agricultural use!
Amanda utilizes organic practices and has goats, chickens, bees, and a few crops. Read more about the cool sustainable growing projects that she employs.
Once the tour concluded, we met back at the main patio as a group where the planners had the most adorable set-up outside - a true farm dinner theme. We snacked on appetizers and drank tea out of mason jars and then eventually, it was time to find a seat at a table for the main event. Our tables were decorated with white tablecloths, tree rounds (both the centerpiece and the coasters), brightly colored flowers and cute little rustic napkin holders.
The Main Event
Our program started with introductions and a short interview of both Amanda (the owner) and Kirsten Skogerson who was representing Monsanto, also a sponsor. Just a side note: it seems like people tend to get a little bit squeamish when they hear that Monsanto sponsors anything, but I always find their information to be relevant and science-based (not "we are right and everyone else is wrong"). I appreciate their effort to collaborate and I am confident in my abilities (and the abilities of my colleagues) to hear a sponsored presentation and recognize any potential conflict of interest. Kirsten has a phD in biochemistry (no big deal) but was also experienced in the science and study of wine (sign me up for that). This is called oenology for everyone who is now considering a career change. She led a short tasting using Colorado wines from Bookcliff Vineyards based out of Palisade. Let's just say I learned a few new terms to describe a Malbec that I plan to use as much as possible from here on out.
After the wine tasting, Chef Jason Morse of 5280 Culinary came outside and explained what we would be having for dinner, and he was so much fun. Here is what was on the menu:
- Tri-tip steak marinated in bloody mary mix, cooked in a traeger and served with blistery cherry tomatoes
- Local corn on the cob from Sakata Farms that was seasoned and smoked
- Roasted beets served with an herb whipped cream cheese and microgreens
- Roasted purple and baby new potatoes
- A vegetarian enchilada wonton cup of sorts that had a lentil/black bean/corn mixture inside
- A roasted palisade peach layered dessert with Noosa yogurt and madeleine cookies that was served in mini mason jars (un-pictured)
I really appreciated the incorporation of local ingredients and the meal was really tasty. My favorite part was definitely the corn. But then again I think I could make a meal of corn sometimes.
The Controversial Stuff
Lastly, as we wrapped up our dinners, each table was provided with a discussion prompt to keep the agriculture talk going. Topics ranged from antibiotics, to genetic modification, to organic food systems and more. Each table was tasked with finding common ground (even if there was some disagreement on the actual question) and then one person from each table reported back to the whole group. Our question involved organic agriculture, and whether or not it was a sustainable way to feed our rapidly growing world population.
I must say, I've been to events like this before where the discussion is directed at the attendees (instead of encouraging us to speak up about our perceptions on these controversial issues) and I really enjoyed having honest conversation with the group at my table. We had a large variety of backgrounds including registered dietitians, students, college-level nutrition professors, an organic farmer and industry representatives and everyone was really professional yet brought up great points. One of my biggest peeves is when someone takes a strong stance against a particular issue without any valid argument so it was great to hear respectful comments from others with legitimate points (versus a conspiracy theory fueled rhetoric that doesn't get us anywhere). Our group discussed the importance of prioritizing food waste, utilizing a variety of growing spaces (both urban and traditional) and evaluating what type of crops are being grown in addition to utilizing technology to simply increase yields.
There was definitely some more heated discussion at some of the other tables and I was happy to hear from all of them on their perceptions, hesitations and opinions on each of the topics presented. I love learning about this agriculture and using critical thinking to come up with viable solutions.
I'm curious to hear about your biggest agricultural questions. What is confusing to you or what would you like to see better communicated to consumers about the way food is grown?