Since the days of Lammas tide, the harvest has sparked agriculture-based celebrations. This weekend's Food For Thought Festival (Sept. 17, 8 a.m.-1:30 p.m. on Martin Luther King Blvd.) is one contemporary version that has previously focused more on theory than on, say, cardboard baskets piled high with sweet corn.
This year's FFT will take place without a keynote speaker for the first time in the fest's thirteen-year history -- previous years have featured such local/sustainable-food celebs as Michael Pollan, Frances Moore Lappe, Alice Waters, and Gary Nabhan and such guest chefs as Deborah Madison, Rick Bayless, Odessa Piper, and Mollie Katzen.
"We'd already brought in most of the thought leaders in this area," says REAP communications coordinator Erin Courtenay, and other possible speakers turned out to be both difficult to contact and pricey. Those at REAP decided to take a different approach, where attendees can "learn and work with their hands, even get their hands dirty," says Courtenay.
A workshop on apples will include a tasting and instructions on how to make your own cider press. Susan Troller, author of Cluck: From Jungle Fowl to City Chicks, will speak on raising chickens and how to choose good eggs. There will also be an organic garden exhibit, chile roasting, mini-hoophouse building workshop, and small farm animal petting area.
The Local Foods Chef Showdown at 11 a.m., lead by Joan Peterson and Terese Allen, will feature Steven Buchholz of Crema Cafe, David McKercher of Mermaid Cafe, and Peter Robertson of RP's Pasta making a dish on the spot using surprise ingredients from the Dane County Farmers' Market.
Local foods for lunch will be served by L'Etoile, LaFortuna mobile pizza oven, Paoli Bread and Brat House, Monty's Blue Plate Diner, and Tex Tubbs Taco Palace. Eighty-some exhibitors will also be on hand.