It’s More Than Just Food: The Farm-to-Table Breakfast

There’s nothing better than warming up on a brisk morning with a cup of coffee and a wholesome breakfast. Thanks to donations of local produce and other ingredients by Harrisonburg Farmers Market vendors and the Friendly City Food Co-op, as well as vegan-friendly and gluten-free baked goods by Sunberry Baking Company, Clementine‘s Chef Jeff Minnick created an outstanding menu for the Farm-to-Table Breakfast, held at the restaurant last Wednesday morning. The breakfast was organized by Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance, Friendly City Food Co-op, and the Virginia Cooperative Extension in celebration of Food Day, a nationwide annual celebration and movement for healthy, affordable, and sustainable food.

The Farm-to-Table Breakfast, along with special promotions and featured dishes in downtown restaurants, was created to showcase the bountiful produce of farmers in the Valley and raise awareness in the community about eating local foods. The proceeds from ticket sales went to benefit the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank and crop tools donated went to benefit the Valley Crop Mob.

A few weekends ago, I had the fortunate experience of shadowing Chef Jeff at the Farmers Market before the event. As I tried to keep up with him through the busy market, I carefully observed his interactions with his selections of food and the merchants providing them.

Chef Jeff Minnick gathering some produce from the Harrisonburg Farmers Market.
Photo by Kari Owens.

As we walked up and down through the bustling Turner Pavilion, I watched as his basket became more full as he found things that inspired him or were just too good to pass up.

Produce at the Harrisonburg Farmers Market.
Photo by Kari Owens.

Butternut Squash.
Photo by Kari Owens.

Chef Jeff Minnick picking out some corn for his Sweet Corn Johnnycakes.
Photo by Kari Owens.

We stopped at one vendor to get some of the butternut squash that would be used in a hash with potatoes for the breakfast. I personally love butternut squash prepared similarly to sweet potatoes, baked with a little butter and cinnamon sugar. So when Jeff told me his plans for the squash, I must admit I wasn’t sure how something so sweet and dense would work in a hash. But I can tell you that the proof was on my plate the morning of the Farm-to-Table Breakfast. Needless to say, I went back for seconds of the hash.

Chef Jeff Minnick carrying his full basket to the back entrance of Clementine.
Photo by Kari Owens.

Elaine Nolt and her son Calvin Nolt, who operate Woods Edge Farm in Singers Glen, were happy to have donated some of their Yukon Gold potatoes and butternut squash for the Farm-to-Table event. Elaine grew up in Morgantown, Pennsylvania as a dairy farmer’s daughter. She began selling at the Harrisonburg Farmers Market in 2006 and her appreciation for the Shenandoah Valley shows not only through the quality of her produce, but also in her gratitude for how friendly the people are here. “Everybody has a story to tell,” she observed. “If you don’t take the time to talk with them, you won’t find out.”

I listened as she spoke to a customer about the Indian corn she had available. She explained how Native Americans would make cornmeal out of the dried corn – and how it’s much better than what you can find in the stores. She also taught me about the use of winter squash by the Pilgrims. Because the squash lasted through the cold weather and stored so well due to its hard shell, Pilgrims were able to make it last for a long time. “They’re also extremely nutritious and filling,” she shared. “The French still eat them and we have somehow gotten away from that.”

It’s anecdotes such as these that I love hearing from farmers at the market. Talking with them, gaining knowledge about food people are purchasing – these things build a strong connection between your body and what is nourishing it while facilitating healthy relationships between the community and the farmers. “The more events there are to build connections, the better it is for all of us,” said Elaine, of the Farm-to-Table Breakfast.

Making connections was most certainly an aspect of the Farm-to-Table Breakfast. The event was sold out and guests left feeling nourished and energized to start their day. And I know I wasn’t the only one going back for seconds!

Guests enjoying local eats at the sold out Farm-to-Table Breakfast. Photo by Nicole Martorana.

People line up and fill their plates with the various menu selections.
Photo by Kari Owens.

Chef Jeff Minnick replenishes the Yukon Gold Potato and Butternut Squash Hash.
Photo by Kari Owens.

Justin Van Kleeck of Sunberry Baking Company arranging baked treats for hungry Farm-to-Table Breakfast guests. Photo by Nicole Martorana.

Profile posters of the farmers that donated for the breakfast. Posters designed by Ariana Witt. Poster photos by Ariana Witt and Brian Ripley.
This photo by Kari Owens.

Profile posters of the farmers that donated for the breakfast. Posters designed by Ariana Witt. Poster photos by Ariana Witt and Brian Ripley.
This photo by Kari Owens.

Many thanks to the following farms for donating ingredients for the breakfast:

Cabin Creek Roasters
Clover Blossom Farm

Edgewood Farms
Glen Eco Farm
Grains of Sense
Heartland Harvest
Hege Farm
Hickory Hill Farm
J & L Green Farm
Lucas Roasting Company
Mountain View Farm
North Mountain Produce
Port Farm
Pure & Simple Farm
Rawley Springs Maple Syrup
Sharon Payne
Singing Earth Farm
Sunberry Baking Company
Woods Edge Farm

Many thanks also to Ariana Witt for designing the Farm-to-Table Breakfast menus, posters, and other promotional materials and Brian Ripley Photography for covering the event. Check out his Farm-to-Table Breakfast photos here!

Kari Owens is a Promotions Intern at Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance and a senior Media Arts & Design major and Creative Writing minor at James Madison University.


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