Two weeks ago, I watched from a distance as Sebastian Africano of Trees, Water, & People walked into a field at Colorado Stock and Grain Farm. He slowed to a stop in the knee high barley. His back to me, he stared up at the gray Colorado sky. He raised a hand and extended an index finger, as if to test the wind. In less than 2 hours, 120 hungry guests would be arriving at the farm to dine al fresco.
This same event last year was the wettest farm dinner setup ever for Fortified Collaborations. Our hardy volunteers were punished by both rain and mud throughout the day. Though we did have tent coverage, most of our dinner guests arrived in rain gear, Colorado-ready for outdoor experiential dining. Despite the waterlogged prelude, a magical payoff came as the skies parted and gave way to a rainbow, just in time for dinner service.
Our farm dinners happen rain or shine, and we prepare as best we can. This year we took a gamble on the sky so we could present one long table and not spend money on a tent, reserving those funds for Trees, Water & People. Sebastian’s weather report (and perhaps a little hoodoo), delivered after having spent a good five minutes standing in the barley and staring at the horizon amounted to, “We can set the tables in twenty minutes.” He called it!
Risk vs. Reward
The arrival of event day came with the knowledge that any fear and worry about weather would only distract from the work at hand. I set those unsettling feelings aside during my drive to Colorado Stock & Grain. Once there, I was pleased to find a team of hardy, hardworking, good humored event volunteers at the ready.
Our mostly sun soaked chores were made easier by our vibe of positivity. Our partial sunburns found relief when a passing cloud let loose the perfect sprinkle of rain. We found gratitude from living in that moment, our spirits raised. The moody sky found a way to work in our favor.
So much had already been accomplished to prepare for event day. A 180-pound Mangalitsa Duroc crossbred hog had been dispatched from CS&G and delivered into the capable hands of Chef Rhys Edmunds. The Magalitsa is often referred to as the Kobe beef of pork. CS&G farmer RJ Ottaviano not only raised that pork, he invested true (and very valuable!) sweat equity into prepping the farm for Heart of Summer.
My burgeoning nerves were beat back as I focused on our theme, and our coming together with shared love for the earth and its bounty. Celebrating the season with a thoughtful meal. Dining in a field of fertile organic soil. It all felt right and true. My heart was full, and my connection to this precious, fleeting experience, was fortified.
A Satisfying Outcome
The table was set, the food was ready, the Verboten started to pour. The guests were arriving, and still no deluge of rain. It is something to see a school bus full of hungry community members show up to a farm dinner, undeterred by the possibilities of weather. They disembark smiling, gazing with appreciation upon the enchanting stage that has been set for their evening.
When I consider the good faith that comes through those generous sponsors of our farm dinners, and the willingness of the crowd to roll with whatever may come while dining beneath our fickle Colorado sky, my gratitude runs deep and I am reminded why I do this work.
The mission of Fortified Collaborations exists in direct support of our living economy. Those roots can only grow if the agriculture that surrounds one’s community can remain supported, even celebrated. I find it fitting that Trees, Water, & People benefitted so much from this event. This non-profit believes that natural resources are best protected when locals play an active role in their care and management. A Fortified farm dinner is the embodiment of this belief.
Thanks to the generosity of the guests and sponsors, we raised almost $1,000 for TWP. We raised a further $900 for their mission by playing Chickenshit Bingo! You really liked that part of Heart of Summer, didn’t you? I can take a hint.
Nurturing Community Bonds
Two weeks ago, after the departure of satisfied and dry dinner guests, my day came to a close in front of a bonfire at Colorado Stock & Grain. I sat with my culinary hero of the day, Rhys, and with RJ, the farmer who so graciously hosted. Basking in the glow of a job well done, our relief was palpable, and the commitment to the success of our local food chain, resolute.
Connections such as this nurture the bond that can come with a shared love for agriculture and earth. May we continue to grow that bond, for it is at the heart of what defines community.
A Special Thank You from Trees, Water, & People
Trees, Water & People would like to graciously thank everyone who attended for listening and contributing to their work through Fortified Collaborations. TWP is proud to represent Fort Collins in communities that are feeling the brunt of the climate crisis across the Americas, and to channel resources directly to improving livelihoods and reducing climate migration.
Learn more about TWP at www.treeswaterpeople.org, and travel with them to the places they work with www.twp.tours. Also - if you didn't get any of the coffee they brought to the event, swing by their office at 633 Remington Street to pick up a bag for your home or workplace!