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by Ellen Wells, Green Profit Magazine

The folks at Peace Tree Farm and the locally inspired cookery of Eclectik Domestic teamed up for the second time this past February to provide a feast to remember at Lloyd and Candy Traven’s greenhouse range in Kintnersville, Pennsylvania. More than 120 people came to sup on a four-course meal brimming with local cheeses, chickens, libations and herbs—the most locally sourced ingredient on the plates. Folks mingled, learned about the under-glass operation, conversed with one another and raised funds for the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture.

A good time was had by all. But this wasn’t just a dinner party at an exceedingly long table. It was a chance to share the stories behind all of the businesses with people who care and can help sustain them; i.e. existing and potential customers.

And you, garden center, greenhouse grower or field farmer, can do it, too. Do it to herald in the season, to feast on the harvest or to celebrate a holiday. I asked the folks at Peace Tree if they could pass along any useful tips on how to run one of these “come and learn about your local producers” types of events. Here’s what they had to say.

Make sure you have enough time before AND after the event. Last year we had too many tasks to do that we left for the day of the event. We also didn’t account for the amount of time it would take to transform the greenhouse back to its regular “working” state before Monday’s big shipping day. This year, we planned the event so that it would NOT fall the weekend leading into shipping for the Philadelphia Flower Show, and began set up two days prior so come Friday it was smooth sailing.

Collaboration with your farmers is really helpful. They may have ideas you weren’t originally thinking and their involvement makes the event that much more genuine and downright fun. This year Katie had twice as many producers participating in the menu, some of who had menu ideas and all of who attended one of the two dinners. She met with each of the farmers well in advance of the event to brainstorm menu options, and in some cases even added new items to the offerings the week of the event based on their availability.

Don’t forget about the little details. Menu cards for each place setting, towels for washing dishes, serving utensils for every course, enough lighting in the greenhouse so it’s not too dark but not too bright, music to set an ambiance.

Flexibility is key. Some guests might show up unexpectedly, while others may cancel at the last minute. Building flexibility into your table seating and event timing helps to make for smooth sailing and happy guests.

All of the photos above were taken by the enormously talented photographer Rob Cardillo.