The sun retreated into the rolling Flint Hills, casting its glow over the historic rock barn at River Creek Farms. In the twilight of the Kansas River valley, guests mingled amid over wine the crisp autumn air. Inside, chef Noah Reagan and staff prepared to put the finishing touches on the first dinner course awaiting guests in the regal 136-year-old structure.
Guests and volunteers of CommonGround Kansas were among the privileged few to experience a world-class dinner on a working farm at Feast of the Fields – Barn Edition on Saturday, Sept. 29. In only its second full year, the event has amassed its share of supporters seeking a unique dining experience and a taste of modern agriculture. The biannual event was started in 2010 by the Mertz family, which raises sheep, cattle and crops at River Creek Farms near Manhattan, KS.
“Everything was so well done, from the flute and violin music by K-State students during the appetizers and wine to the four-course meal,” said volunteer LaVell Winsor. “It was lovely. Each course served with a different wine served by K-State hospitality student volunteers.”
The perfect weather and beautiful lighting in the 100-year-old barn created an elegant atmosphere to enjoy agriculture at its finest, she added.
Feast of the Fields and CommonGround share similar missions. Many Americans underestimate the importance of agriculture in their lives. With the majority of Americans several generations removed from the farm, agriculture has become unfamiliar territory. Most consumers’ only exposure to the industry is via the media, where misinformation can be quickly perpetuated. It can be challenging to sort through the myriad messages littered with hype and hoaxes. Many folks have questions, yet don’t know a farmer to serve as a resource for making informed decisions about the food they eat. That’s where Feast of the Fields and CommonGround unite.
“Today, 98% of farms in America are family operations. We’re a fourth-generation family grain and livestock operation,” said Mary Mertz, event organizer and member of the family farm. “Across our nation, farmers are producing the finest quality and most abundant foods in the world. Many people, however, do not truly understand agriculture and its significance in their lives.”
The Mertz family tells the story using meats, produce and wines from the Flint Hills region of Kansas. Guests come from across the region to enjoy fine dining and a taste of the farm.
“Feast of the Fields highlights farm-fresh foods in a natural setting,” Mertz noted. “It is our goal to provide participants with an authentic culinary adventure that leaves them feeling positive about Kansas farms and foods.”
The barn edition followed the tradition of offering cuisine prepared by an accomplished chef. Noah Reagan, owner and chef at downtown Manhattan’s della Voce, prepared a menu featuring fresh meat and produce from the area (menu at right).
Thanks to Mary Mertz and her family for allowing CommonGround to host our guests at this wonderful event! For more information on Feast of the Fields, please visit http://feastofthefields.yolasite.com or contact Mary directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or (785) 456-9201. Feast of the Fields features two editions each year. The summer event features the same fine dining and entertainment amid a growing corn field. Events sell out quickly, so mark your calendar for the 2013 editions.