WEST NIPISSING — The West Nipissing Chamber of Commerce is postponing its popular Feast on the Farm culinary event until 2023 due to the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and rising costs.
"After receiving the Ontario Culinary Event of the Year award in 2020, our team wanted to ensure that the next event was brought back to the highest standards possible," reads a release from the Chamber. "Unfortunately, due to an overall lack of participation, this is something we could not guarantee at this time."
The 2020 and 2021 events were also both cancelled due to the pandemic. Even with the setback this year, the Chamber intends to move forward with Feast on the Farm in 2023 with the hope another year to recover from the pandemic will lead to a top-notch experience for all.
"Many of our local businesses are still feeling the adverse effects of the pandemic and extended lockdowns imposed on them for the past two years," the Chamber states. "Lack of adequate staffing and the substantial increase in food prices have also been a major deterrent for our participants. We feel that allowing our local businesses more time to prepare themselves will lead to a more successful event in the future."
Feast on the Farm was poised to return on August 7. The annual event is held at Leisure Farms. Zack Lafleur, the Chamber’s executive director has noted the event is the organization's biggest fundraiser, and once costs are covered, the proceeds help the Chamber to continue to offer programs for the local business community.
Feast on the Farm is also a promotional tool for the farm and restaurant sector within West Nipissing and surrounding areas. The event has grown considerably, from 50 guests when it launched in 2013 to the 550 guests planned for this summer’s feast. The Ontario Tourism Association declared Feast on the Farm the 2019 Culinary Event of the Year.
“It’s a very big award for us, and it was really nice to be recognized,” Lafleur said. "That really put us on the map.”
The Chamber was offering $1,500 per chef to help offset the cost of cooking a small plate for 550 guests. Chefs are welcome to apply from anywhere, although most come from West Nipissing, North Bay, and Sudbury, with a heavy emphasis on West Nipissing cooks, because the idea is to maintain a strong local presence.
Each meal prepared for the feast uses ingredients sourced from within 100 kilometres of Sturgeon Falls. Local businesses sponsor the chef tents with guests circulating around the farm to sample the many different kinds of food and refreshments representing a variety of cultures.
The event highlights local producers as much as the local cooks and organizers will now go to work to bring Feast on the Farm back as a main course option next summer.
With files from David Briggs