What To Eat At Farm Aid

If you’re among the lucky ones who scored Farm Aid tickets before the Sept. 22 event sold out (in four hours’ time), you’ll be enjoying not just top-notch musical talent, but some of the freshest local food Connecticut has to offer.

The all-day festival at Hartford’s XFINITY Theatre not only features marquee acts like Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds, but also spotlights “family farm-identified, local and organic foods” in its concessions.

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“Our mission is to support family farmers, and we try to express this, not just with our year-round work with farmers, but also through our event,” says Glenda Yoder, Farm Aid’s associate director.

Farm Aid’s HOMEGROWN Concessions works with Legends Hospitality, which oversees the food service at the venue, to offer a menu of items following certain Farm Aid criteria: sustainable food produced by family farmers, using ecological practices, with a commitment to a fair price for farmers.

The Hartford event will feature fresh seafood, including fish tacos and seafood ceviche with scallops, Yoder says, with Boston-based Red’s Best as the fish supplier. Fresh veggie-centric options include a beet sandwich, a “grain, bean and greens” bowl with callaloo, a stone fruit salad, Brussels sprouts and a loaded baked sweet potato with maple sour cream.

KNOX in Hartford, which coordinates a variety of greening programs and oversees 26 urban farm sites and community gardens in the city, will serve salads featuring the fresh produce of its partner farmers, says executive director Ron Pitz. And Farm Aid’s HOMEGROWN Youthmarket, which sells local fruit and more on site, is operated by young people involved in farming and farmers markets.

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Classic concessions — hot dogs, burgers, chicken — still come from sources offering humanely raised meats, Yoder says. Chicken, for example, will come from Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley Organic.

Farm Aid organizers also spend time researching potential local vendors, drawing on longstanding relationships with many farm and food organizations around the country, Yoder says. “That’s a great base from which to begin. They know their local food systems.”

Scott Miller of DORO Restaurant Group got the call earlier this summer. As a Max Restaurant Group chef, he led the charge with its Max Chef-to-Farm program, and continued his connections to state farmers as chief operating officer and partner in the group that oversees Avert, Treva and Zohara in West Hartford and Artisanal Burger Company in Manchester.

“Any time I’m looked at as a liaison to the farmers, by anyone from the outside, I’m thrilled,” Miller says. Farm Aid organizers have asked him to serve as a food vendor, showcasing a recipe with local corn, which he plans to source from Simsbury’s Rosedale Farms.

“Hopefully, they see Connecticut has everything they need,” he says. “I know they’ve been traveling around the country and I think that they will be pleasantly surprised at the produce and the meat and the dairy … and things like that that they’re able to pull within a few miles of Hartford.”

Grass & Bone, Mystic’s hybrid restaurant and butcher shop, will be serving tacos with local meats and vegetables and handmade tortillas, says owner Dan Meiser. Chef James Wayman will source pork from Wild Harmony Farms in Exeter, R.I., beef from Beriah Lewis Farm in North Stonington and produce from Stone Acres Farm in Stonington.

Meiser says he and Wayman were introduced to Farm Aid representatives through Fairfield County chef Michel Nischan, who’s the founder of Wholesome Wave, a nonprofit that helps increase affordable access to healthy produce. “When we were asked to do it, it was an obvious yes,” he says.

“Farm Aid wouldn’t have come here if there wasn’t a strong and vibrant farming community. To have Farm Aid in Connecticut is just validation for all of us in the region who’ve been doing this for some time, that it’s being recognized.”

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