Here in the Mid-Ohio Valley we are blessed to be surrounded by local farmers that supply our unwavering desire for fresh produce. There’s no denying that more and more citizens are clamoring for local, homegrown fruits and vegetables. Julie Witten, Chief Executive Officer at Witten’s Produce Patch in Beverly, Ohio, had a vision years ago of bringing her family’s fresh produce directly to the kitchen table. What started as a dream turned into a reality this summer. Hence, the farm-to-table dinners were born.
So how did the idea of the farm-to-table dinners begin? Angie Negie, Office Manager at Witten’s Produce Patch explains: “Julie had been talking about the farm-to-table dinners for several years. She had seen pictures of the beautiful tables sitting among the fields in magazines like Country Living and said that one day we were going to do something like that. We made the final decision to do the dinners last fall. Sandy Merrill (a former Regional Manager for the company) took on a new role as our Special Events Coordinator, with the farm-to-table dinners being her main focus. We started the planning process in February and slowly ironed out the details through the spring. We began advertising in mid-June.”
With the decision made to host the first of three dinners in July, lots of preparation and planning took place to make sure all the details were accounted for. Jenni Cunningham, Market Manager at the Vienna, W.Va. location, said there were a lot of miscellaneous details that had to be worked out before the first dinner took place. Details such as finding a chef, developing a seasonal menu, and scouting the perfect location were just a few major components that had to be in order. Local chef Katie Wainwright-Tucker was recruited to prepare all the meals. Based on availability of Witten produce, a menu for each of the three farm-to-table dinners was made. Finally, Julie’s picturesque driveway was decided as the location for the dinners.
Once advertising for the dinners began in June, tickets started selling immediately. In fact, all three of the dinners have sold out. As Jenni states, “the feedback has been FABULOUS!” Thus, a waiting list has already been started for next year’s event. Angie said people have travelled as far as Columbus and Youngstown, Ohio to have this farm-to-table experience.
So what has contributed to the Witten’s successful first farm-to-table series? As expressed, the event takes place outside on Julie’s beautiful tree-lined driveway off Muskingum River Rd near Lowell, Ohio. Jenni explains guests have the opportunity to view Witten family and farm photos before and after the dinner begins. Prior to dinner, Julie shares the history of the Witten Farm and Rainbow Farm, which is where her house and some of the fields are located. Next comes the star of the event- the food. Each farm-to-table dinner features a five-course meal beginning with an appetizer, soup or salad, entrée, main dish, and a dessert. Chef Katie discusses the details of each course before it is served. Violin music played by local musicians flows softly in the background. Floral arrangements provided by Julie’s sister-in-law, Lora Witten of Amy’s Flower Shoppe in Beverly, Ohio, adorn the tables and surrounding area.
Once the final farm-to-table gathering has ended on September 29, Jenni states the Witten team will meet and do a recap of the dinners, a takeaway and improvements that can be made for next year. After these elements are discussed, planning will begin for next year. Based on the sell-out and waiting list, it appears evident Julie has found an ocassion that locals and out-of-towners alike adore. What a great way to enjoy the food, beauty, and companionship of the MOV.
For more information regarding the farm-to-table dinners and the Witten farm and family, visit their website at www.wittenfarm.com.