Farmland to Fine Dining
Farmland to Fine Dining creates an Urban-Rural Connection
Story by: Angil Wanner-Koper
The inaugural Farmland to Fine Dining event, held in early August near Bismarck, welcomed members of the area urban community. Diners traveled to the country to hear farm and ranch stories while they were served an exquisite meal. Attendees also engaged in conversations with farmers and ranchers to help understand how consumers can follow the steps back to where food comes from. The event’s platform was to create an educational and entertaining fine dining experience while generating awareness of the importance and sustainability of local agriculture.
Tucked under the bluffs along Highway 1806 south of Huff Hills near the Missouri River is the beautiful Kenny Miller ranch. Angus cattle lined the fence along the curving road up to the farm site. Tall silver grain bins and a crop lined plot surrounded the social hour area next to the large white tent that was strategically placed for guests to enjoy the view of the hills and surrounding farmland. Wildflowers were picked locally and placed in vases on the tables which held a visible card of who the guest farmer was that would be seated at that table. Elegant décor added just the right pop of color and ambiance to the space. “It was literally a perfect day with a nice rain shower coming through in the late morning to settle the dust soon followed by beautiful clear sky and a gentle summer breeze. We couldn’t have asked for more!” Dennis Agnew, event coordinator, says.
Entertainment and a social hour kicked off the evening. Trays of appetizers were held by servers as they walked through the guests. Live music was provided by Prairie Road as well as a cash bar from a nearby brewery, Laughing Sun, which uses malt from locally grown barley to make its beverages. Agriculture focused vendors provided education and demonstrations on soil health, precision farming, farm conservation and honey production.
The ringing of a triangle summoned diners to an elegant dinner comprised of locally grown beef and farm fresh ingredients, prepared by Terra Nomad, that were served with bottles of wine carefully paired to enhance the flavor of the dishes. The menu was tucked into neatly folded napkins along with either a sprig of flowered flax, head of wheat or oats.
To augment the educational portion of the event, farmers and ranchers were an integral part of initiating conversations with guests. These local producers were also strategically placed at the dinner tables to continue conversations and share personal stories of their challenges, technological advances and history of their farm and/or ranch with guests. Heather Lang, a CommonGround North Dakota (CGND) volunteer, focused on getting the conversation started between farmers who grow food and the urban guests. Lang says, “The Farmland to Fine Dining event was a huge success! When you arrived at the event you couldn’t help but admire the gorgeously landscaped agricultural setting and the serene, peaceful feeling of living around livestock. Then you got a bit further onto the property where guests were able to touch the crops, have real conversations with the farmers and ranchers that grow their food that we all got to indulge on that evening.” Lang believe that having those connections are extremely important, both for the consumer and the producer. “It was a beautifully, relaxed, picturesque event where each of us could make the connections and help bridge the gap between farmers, ranchers and consumers. The guests that I had the chance to talk with had some really great questions and we got to have great conversations,” says Lang.
Kenny Miller, the host rancher for the event, played a video that recognized him for winning the Leopold Conservation Award in 2017. The Leopold Award honors agriculture landowners who inspire others with their dedication to land, water and wildlife habitat management on private, working land. Farm Rescue showed a video of a North Dakota farmer who had received assistance due to a cancer diagnosis. Some of the proceeds from ticket sales went to this organization which benefits farmers in need.
With more than 90 attendees, the Farmland to Fine Dining event bridged the relationship gap between local farmers/ranchers and the urban guests by promoting and demonstrating the value of these successful community partnerships. Dave Lehman, event coordinator, described one of many of the amazing conversations that happened during the event. “A young couple who had moved to North Dakota from California had never been on a farm or ranch before and were overjoyed with their very first experience! Also, many attendees commented that they enjoyed the wonderful conversations, education and passion of the farmers and ranchers,” Lehman says. He continued by saying that farmers and ranchers also shared that their conversations were both fruitful and engaging. “Sharing dinner together on a farm brought a renewed sense of value and appreciation for all,” Lehman says. “North Dakota was built on agriculture so this event was a nice way to reconnect folks that have been two-to-three generations or more removed from the farm back to their roots. It also allowed people who have never been on a farm to catch a glimpse of the beauty and value it brings.”
The Farmland to Fine Dining event was generously supported by partnerships with CommonGround North Dakota and other agricultural organizations.