A successful open concept dining experience hosted by Leisure Farms and the West Nipissing Chamber of Commerce won an Ontario Tourism Association award Wednesday for the culinary event of the year.
The Feast on the Farm started out with 50 guests in 2013 and has grown to involve more than 500 participants at the 2019 event.
“It’s a very big event for us and brings together the whole community,” said Zack Lafleur, the chamber’s business engagement coordinator.
Local chefs, farms, and producers join forces with regional counterparts to offer a variety of dining experiences.
Leisure Farms’ Mitch Deschatelets said it “feels great” for the team involved to get recognition because “we put in a lot of effort to make that event a success.”
Deschatelets said many local farms, producers, and businesses benefit from the exposure, as well as the participants.
“It really connects people to the food that’s available within the area,” he said, noting that the chefs must use ingredients including beef, pork, and lamb sourced from within 100 kilometres.
Joanne Valliere, past chamber board chairwoman, is chair of the Feast on the Farm event and she said they now have plenty of motivation to work hard toward the next event to live up to their hard-earned reputation as a prestige event.
Valliere said they'll be looking at innovative ways to make it memorable with some thought to coming up with a special souvinir participants can take home with them.
It's more important than ever, she said, because COVID-19 pandemic impacts on travel and economy highlight how important it is to appreciate local producers, chefs and businesses.
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.
An example of local businesses and farms involved include Twigg’s Coffee, Riv Chip Stand, Jilly Bean (ice cream and gelatos), Feel Good Farm of Cache Bay, Springhill Farm of Trout Creek, and Sucrerie Seguin Sugarbush of Lavigne. Other regional examples include Highland Brewery of South River, Thornloe Cheese, and Sault Ste. Marie’s Thompson Farms.
North Bay’s Farina’s of Best Western and Mr. Pancho have also been involved.
While COVID-19 pandemic restrictions forced the August event off the calendar for 2020, Lafleur said “we’re really looking at coming back in 2021, if we can, even bigger and better.”
Dave Dale is a Local Initiative Reporter working out of BayToday.ca. LJI is funded by the Government of Canada.