Copy of Farm to Fork: Chapel Hill Creamery owner recalls event's early days
Posted May 22
Updated May 23
Portia McKnight believes that the Farm to Fork Picnic Weekend has grown bigger and better every year. She ought to know, as she's been involved ever since the first event was held in 2007 at the Chapel Hill Creamery farm she runs with partner Flo Hawley.
"It was so heartwarming to host that event on our land," McKnight says, recalling how it was organized quickly to welcome Carlo Petrini, founder of the International Slow Food Movement. "Everyone was determined to make a good impression."
That first Farm to Fork Picnic united a group of established Triangle culinary leaders, like Alex and Betsy Hitt of Peregine Farm, who were among the first sellers at the now nationally famous Carrboro Farmers Market, and up-and-comers like Andrea Reusing, who would soon win a James Beard Award for her work at Lantern in Chapel Hill (she was a semifinalist for 2017 Outstanding Chef, a nationwide category). Tickets sold out so quickly, McKnight says, that one of her most loyal customers begged for a chance to help park cars so she could be there.
Tickets for this year's 10th anniversary events are available online.
Proceeds from the fundraiser benefit the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS), which develops and promotes just and equitable food and farming systems that conserve natural resources, strengthen communities, improve health outcomes, and provide economic opportunities in North Carolina and beyond, and the PLANT Farm Enterprise Incubator at the W.C. Breeze Family Farm in Hurdle Mills, which incubates new farmers and offers training on small scale sustainable farming techniques.
Chapel Hill Creamery will be featured in the sold-out June 3 Five Chefs in Five Courses dinner at Raleigh's Bridge Club, in which McKnight and Hawley will partner with Chef Ashley Christensen of Poole's Diner and Death & Taxes in Raleigh.
Named best Chef Southeast by the Beard Foundation 2013, Christensen also was a 2017 semifinalist for Outstanding Chef. On June 4, at the Farm to Fork Picnic, the cheese makers will pair with Chapel Hill neighbors The Root Cellar.
"There is an incredibly rich history of food production and food celebration in the Triangle," says McKnight, who first connected with Hawley in the late 1970s when they worked at Somethyme, the first restaurant in Durham. In the 1980s, they worked with Lex and Anne Alexander when they launched Wellspring Grocery, which encouraged consumers to become more connected to the foods they ate. It later became part of Whole Foods.
"I believe Farm to Fork as an event really grew out of that whole scene," she says. "It's been wonderful to watch that first event blossom into what it is today, and to still be part of it. We both can look to the future hopefully, because farm-to-fork as movement is here to stay."
WRAL is a sponsor of the 10th anniversary Farm to Fork Picnic Weekend, which will be held June 2-4 in Raleigh and Fearrington Village. Order tickets at www.farmtoforknc.com.