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Go Locavore at the 2018 Wild America Nature Festival!

Posted on Jul 9, 2018

Fresh strawberries. BBQ chicken. Mushrooms. Sweet corn. Cherries. Burgers. Black raspberries.

We could keep on listing the amazing locally farmed and wild edible foods that make our summer delicious, but it would take up more space than we have for this article.

Roger Tory Peterson’s Wild America Nature Festival at Panama Rocks on July 28 & 29 will celebrate amazing, locally produced and sourced food and highlight the importance of the environment to our food chain.

One of the highlights of this year’s festival will be a series of programs delivered by Lee Peterson, the younger of Roger Tory Peterson’s two sons. Lee has worked in the world of Natural History his entire life and is the author/illustrator of A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants of Eastern and Central North America. In addition to speaking about his father’s life and legacy, Lee will lead walks discussing native plants and teach guests how to identify and use edible wild plants. “In this era of the supermarket, few people still take advantage of the great store of edible wild plants available to them.” ~Roger Tory Peterson (from Editor’s Note in Lee’s book). Anyone who knows about the amazing wild edibles in our area knows that they are some of the best food available!

The Local Food Cook-Off at the Wild America Nature Festival, sponsored by Edible Western New York and in collaboration with Chautauqua Institution’s Food Festival, will highlight local, sustainably grown food and the farms that they come from. The Local Food Cook-Off at the Wild America Nature Festival includes six award-winning food vendors:

o Reverie Creamery is a small scale cheese making company and cheese store located in Chautauqua, New York. Reverie is dedicated to using local ingredients and collaborating with a range of local artisans. Their products reflect a meaningful relationship to the land and Western New York’s agricultural heritage through which we connect to, experience, and savor the flavors of our place and region.

o Green Heron Growers, a certified-organic farm which provides nourishing food for family, friends, and community in the Chautauqua County region. The farm produces 100% grass-fed beef, chicken and eggs, shiitake mushrooms, veggies, herbs and fruits.

o The White Carrot restaurant in Mayville, has a certain farm fresh approach in its fine contemporary cuisine. They strive to use local ingredients and their dishes tend to change daily with inspiration from what’s harvested fresh.

o Labyrinth Press Company in Jamestown is a place that turns the necessary tasks of procuring sustenance and caffeine into adventure and enjoyment. Their food, coffee, and baked goods are consistent crowd pleasers all year long.

o Superfresh! Organic Cafe (rated the “Best Vegetarian Restaurant in Vermont” by the prestigious Yankee Magazine) uses locally sourced ingredients to make delicious meals that are non-GMO and allergy-friendly. Beyond the food, Superfresh! also holds a serious commitment to supporting sustainable models of production, distribution, waste and recycling – all of their to-go containers are compostable, and any food waste is composted.

o EBC West is known for its five-course, seasonally inspired dinners paired with locally crafted brews. Located in beautiful downtown Fredonia their friendly and knowledgeable staff create a lively, comfortable atmosphere, making EBC West an excellent choice for great food when visiting the Chautauqua region.

In addition to the Local Food Cook-Off, the festival will have a Farmer’s Market where guests can buy fresh fruits, vegetables, cheese, honey, and other products that are grown or produced locally. Participants include Abers Acres, Big Tree Maple, Good Grass Farm, Green Heron Growers, Reverie Creamery, and Toboggan Hill Farm (with potentially more to be added)!

The Local Food Cook-Off and Farmers Market make for a lot of delicious fun, but it is also important for conservation. Although it may not be obvious, there are many connections between nature and our modern diets: All of our crops (and livestock) were selectively bred from once wild ancestors; We are largely dependent on nature to provide services that facilitate food production (precipitation, pollination, etc.); We are very much still at the mercy of nature in the face of climate change and emerging pestilences (most of the varieties of plants and animals that we produce on a large scale are genetically limited); Our agricultural practices (clearing vast tracts of land, the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, etc.) are often at odds with nature, and nature is still the ultimate reservoir of our agricultural ingenuity (genetic diversity). By learning more about the local people and farms that produce the food we eat, we develop a stronger sense of place and community. By learning more about the domesticated plants and animals that we cultivate, and those that thrive in the wild on our local landscape, we develop an appreciation for botanical (agricultural) diversity and the broad spectrum of culinary options that it presents.

The first step to helping address many of these food-related concerns is to get to know farmers, shop local, and support and work with farmers in your community. You can start at the Wild America Nature Festival on July 28 & 29!