Sunday, May 18, 2008

Broad Appetit -- Rain or Shine!

Sunday's on-and-off rainy weather didn't seem to prevent anyone from showing up at Richmond's inaugural Broad Appetit festival, held from 12-5PM on Broad Street between Monroe and Adams. As you might expect, the RFC was in attendance at this lovely event, and we had a great time talking to vendors, networking, eating and listening to a speech made by Joel Salatin, farmer of Omnivore's Dilemma fame.

Street decorations -- the festival's logo is a spork.

The atmosphere at Broad Appetit was reminiscent of other street events in Richmond: the National Folk Festival and the Watermelon Festival came to mind. Everyone was there to relax and enjoy the weekend, and there were the usual beer trucks, cotton candy stands and musical acts performing on the sidewalks. In addition, the underlying focus on quality food, driven by the presence of the 'locavore marketplace' and Joel Salatin's speech gave the festival a sense of fervor and purpose that made it different from other gatherings in the Richmond area.

Salatin speaks.

Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm showed up on-stage at 2pm to give a rousing lecture on industrial food systems and food as art. He talked about the three identified vulnerabilities of our current national food system: centralized production, centralized processing and long-distance transportation, making the very reasonable claim that these weaknesses could be avoided by relying on local means. Salatin's theme, very appropriate for the festival's location (right in First Fridays art walk territory) was 'Let Them Eat Art:' in other words, imploring us to view food and eating as a meaningful, creative endeavor. "We are painting a landscape of resource stewardship for our children," said Salatin. "We want to build stories and memories that can move all the way to the dinner plate."

Conical cabbage from Victory Farms.

Among the many vendors, we saw our usual friends from the weekly markets: Victory Farms, Amy's Garden, CCL Farms, Faith Farms (pardon me if I am pluralising your farm incorrectly), Bill and Joyce, Simply Delicious, and lots of others. There were also booths from area restaurants and other organizations: Tricycle Gardens was in attendance, as was Bill Foster from Zed Cafe. It was interesting to see some of the more traditional food options mixed in with booths offering selections like vegetarian deli items from Ellwood Thompson's and Zed Cafe's fresh strawberry and spinach salads. Is it possible there was a dialog going on between the food establishment as it stands and the revolutionaries?

Eli sells cut flowers, seedlings and fresh produce for Amy's Garden.

Maybe people were just having fun. Either way, it was exciting to see people (and lots of them) participating who weren't weekly marketgoers. It will be interesting to see if market attendance increases as a result of the festival -- check back here, of course, for our periodic market updates. In any case, the festival was a great time and certainly an important event for food culture in Richmond. I was glad to be there and, believe it or not, I was having such a good time celebrating food that I almost forgot to eat.

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