Harvest Tasting shows local farms' bounty
It's harvest time on the farm.
For Tara Rockacy, who works a sustainable third-generation family farmette in Baldwin called Churchview Farm, it's an exciting time for reaping the rewards of a busy growing season.
She plans to take a sampling of her fall and winter crops, which include assorted head lettuces and other fresh greens — arugula, tatsoi, radicchio, frisee and watercress — along with kale, rainbow chard, radish, onions, hot peppers, beets, herbs and eggs to the inaugural Harvest Tasting on Saturday at Bakery Square.
Sharing her table at the showcase of locally produced foods will be her partner, Kate Romane, chef and owner of e2 restaurant in Highland Park. Romane will have prepared dishes made from ingredients fresh from their farm.
Rockacy is making the most of her grandparents' farm. On less than 10 acres of land, Churchview produces a wide variety of heirloom fruits and vegetables. And it is home to an apiary from which seasonal raw honey is harvested. About 60 heritage breed chickens are raised on free-range pastures, and she says a new structure being built this fall will provide space for more chickens, ducks and a few dairy goats.
“We grow a wide variety of crops, almost entirely heirloom, and I tend to focus on more rare and unusual varieties,” she says. “Tomatoes are my passion, and this season we grew more than 90 varieties of heirloom tomatoes.”
Churchview Farm has partnered with Chatham University's food-studies program, offering as many as 10 graduate-student internships for a season.
Erin Hart, executive director of Farm to Table Pittsburgh and director of health-benefit services for American HealthCare Group, is the organizer of the Harvest Tasting. She says the event was created to showcase nearly 60 local farms such as Rockacy's, in addition to restaurants, wineries, breweries and food producers who will provide samples of local foods, recipes and products for sale.
“Our spring conference in March doesn't have a lot of produce because there isn't a lot in season at that time,” she says. “We wanted to host an event that would allow Pittsburghers to experience the harvest. The event is 12 days before Thanksgiving, our national holiday celebrating the harvest.”
Besides local exhibitors, the Harvest Tasting will feature entertainment by 2 Turntables and a Saxophone, and an acoustic performance by Jason Kendall. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Pittsburgh Chapter of the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition.
Hart says area residents have made progress toward improving their eating habits, but there's still work to be done to keep the momentum going. By choosing local food, consumers are using ingredients that must be prepared and cooked, providing a healthier alternative to processed foods.
The Harvest Tasting is a good way for local food producers to share their products and talk about food and their relationships with area restaurants, according to Rockacy.
“People are often surprised at how easy it can be to gain access to high-quality local food, as well as the wonderful variety of small farms in Pennsylvania and what they bring to the community — great food, learning opportunities, rich histories and unique experiences,” she says.
Candy Williams is a contributing writer to Trib Total Media.