BARRINGTON – Local food growers have celebrated giving back to the community for years, but this year it will be more formal.
Smart Farm of Barrington will host its first annual Farm to Barn Dinner from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 6, at the Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital Barn, 450 W. Highway 22, in Barrington. The 100-seat, family-friendly affair is almost sold out, Smart Farm founder Kathy Gabelman said.
Gabelman, a Lake Barrington resident, dedicates her time March through November, along with several other volunteers, to grow produce in a 30 by 48-square foot "hoop house" on an acre of land at the hospital for one purpose – to feed the area's hungry. The group has two additional gardens on hospital grounds.
Smart Farm volunteers donated more than 6,700 pounds of produce to food pantries in Barrington, Cary Grove, Cuba Township, Carpentersville, Lake Zurich and Wauconda-Island Lake in 2013. The group, founded in 2008, meets Monday, Wednesday and Saturday mornings to plant and harvest.
Gabelman said the site's greenhouse, built in 2012 with a grant from the Barrington Area Community Foundation, is special because it allows volunteers to work rain or shine and to start planting seedlings in March, which would be difficult outdoors. Volunteers have already put in more than 500 hours of service this year, Gabelman added.
The upcoming community five-course meal, held at the site of Art in the Barn, will feature dishes from four local chefs and live music. Tickets are $100 per person. Gabelman said the event could turn into an annual tradition, depending on how the first one goes.
Zak Dolezal, chef and general manager of Duke's Alehouse and Kitchen in Crystal Lake, is in charge of coordinating the fare.
Dolezal said each chef – Dolezal, Michael Formichella of The Anvil Club in Algonquin, Anne Fitzgibbons of OMango in Naperville, Jessica Grelle of Mama Jess, and Dominic and Jessica Green of Gentleman Farmer – will source food locally to prepare bite-size appetizers, a main course and unique desserts.
Drinks will likely include wine and cocktails. Dishes will be passed family-style, Dolezal said.
What will Dolezal be preparing?
"Probably lemon-herb marinated and grilled chicken, collard greens and corn bread polenta," Dolezal said. "It's seasonal, rustic and something that's not on our regular menu at Duke's."
Dolezal said his dish will have a bit of a Southern influence.
The evening's produce will likely come from the Green family's organic farm in Barrington Hills, as well as other local farmers, Gabelman added.
According to the Illinois Food and Farming Jobs Act, the average meal in the state travels 1,500 miles before reaching the dinner table.
"It'll be really great to form new relationships with these chefs and farmers that I've never met," Dolezal said. "Plus, the food miles will be minimal. People are realizing how important food is and it's unique to have this opportunity in the suburbs. It's important to care about the food we put into our bodies."
In addition to donating 100 percent of every harvest, Gabelman said Smart Farm volunteers host cooking classes for those in need and occasionally donate kitchen appliances to families to make healthy meals in their home. A Frozen Zucchini 5K snowshoe race fundraiser is held in Barrington every January to benefit the organization.
Gabelman said the dinner event will be a way to give back to Smart Farm supporters.
"A community can be brought together with food," Gabelman said. "Local sustainable farming is a wonderful thing."
Visit www.smartfarms.org for tickets or more information.