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10 Reasons Why You Should Attend the Farm to Table Pittsburgh Conference

Get the lowdown on one of the best food events of the season.




Photo of Youth Cook by The Children's Museum

 

The brainchild of local advocate Erin Hart, the Farm to Table Pittsburgh Conference launched nine years ago as a small gathering of the area's food community. It has grown steadily since then — this year, organizers are expecting almost 6,000 visitors over two days, making it the largest food-focused conference in the city.

I’ve been supporting the conference for the last five years, and it always has been such a great weekend to meet and connect with individuals who are interested in the many aspects of food advocacy — from farming to fermenting, nutrition and health, to cooking and crooning about food (last year, I interviewed a songwriter who also wrote a cookbook!).

This year's theme is Cook at Home, a subject close to my heart, as I believe that is the simplest step we can take to change our health. I talked about this in my 2014 TEDx talk and continue to advocate for it.

There are so many good things about this year's two-day conference — from the interesting lineup of speakers to the always-a-hit Friday night tasting.

 

Here are the sessions I’m definitely not missing:
 


WIGLE WHISKEY PHOTO BY LAURA PETRILLA; OTHER PHOTOS WERE PROVIDED

 

FRIDAY, MARCH 27

11:30 a.m.

More Than Family: Eating Together with Friends and Others
Alice Julier, program director of Chatham University’s Food Studies program, discusses themes from her book in this forum and conversation about the simplest of all revolutionary acts — eating together. Julier has been an instrumental figure in our region’s food movement,his is a great opportunity to learn from one of the leaders in the emerging food-studies field.
 

12:30 p.m.

Buying Local? Don’t Forget the Flour!
Nigel Tudor of Weatherbury Farm talks about local flour—something many may not know they can get! Nigel runs one of the few farms in the region that grows and mills a variety of grains to flour, including some wonderful heirloom varieties.
 

1:30 p.m.

SNAP Challenge
Writer Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan and the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank’s Megan Davis hold a SNAP Challenge — exploring what it is like to live on a budget of $1.50 per meal. Pagel-Hogan, a mom of three, participated and recruited friends to take the challenge in September 2014; she will share the impact it had on their families. This session will break down notions of what it's like to live on food stamps — thus, it is a must for anyone truly interested in advocating for food justice and access.
 

5:00 p.m.

Friday Night Food Tasting
Fifty-five local food purveyors will provide tastes of their products. From The Greek Gourmet to Franklin Inn Mexican Restaurant and GOODLife Juice to Wigle Whiskey, there is a wide range of flavors to enjoy.
 


Photo of Project Lunch Tray by Stephen Seliy
 

SATURDAY, MARCH 28
 

8:30 a.m.

Saturday Morning Breakfast
Start your Saturday with a delicious menu that includes scones, potato pancakes, French toast and other breakfast classics. Then allow Noreen McGinnis Campbell, one of the sisters of the McGinnis Sisters Specialty Food Stores, to inspire you as she talks about cooking at home.
 

10:30 a.m.

Foods and Herbs for Natural Health
Dr. Scott Heineman talks about a natural approach to healing and staying healthy. There is an entire apothecary the produce aisle — learn how to use it!
 

10:30 a.m.

Making Raw-Milk Kefir, Kefir Smoothies and Kefir Ice Cream
Edwin and Dawn Shank of The Family Cow will talk about the benefits of kefir — how probiotics keep our gut healthy and therefore keep us in optimum health. Then learn how to make your own!
 

11:30 a.m.

Healthy Teas
We all may love coffee, but let’s not forget about tea. There is more to life than Lipton. Take local purveyor Gryphon’s Teas, which has an amazing array. Taste and learn the benefits of different teas from herbal blends to varieties of high antioxidant green teas.
 

12:30 p.m.

Youth Cook with The Brazen Kitchen and The Children’s Museum (ABSOLUTELY SHAMELESS PLUG)

I am so excited about this! I held a class for kids at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh a few weeks ago, and I had such a great time that we are doing it again! Youth Cook is a program at the museum for youth ages 10 and older, where youth partner with guest chefs to cook fresh, seasonal dishes in the museum café. At the conference, you can get a taste of this program for free! We are going to make creative quesadillas — from pizzadillas to dessert quesadillas, it’s a fun hands-on class for kids. There are limited spots, so register at info@brazenkitchen.com.
 

2:30 p.m.

Project Lunch Tray
One of the biggest things on my food wish-list is for better school lunches. School districts in California and Colorado all have done work to transform their school food — one of the main sources of nourishment for many children. In Pittsburgh, Community Kitchen Pittsburgh is one of the leading advocates for better food in schools. Join me as I host the culminating event of weeks-long collaboration between chefs, students and schools to come up with better from-scratch alternatives to mozzarella sticks, chicken nuggets and walking tacos. Come taste what school lunch could be!
 

 

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