I was brought into Big River Slow Food’s Minnesota Food Association and immigrant farmers benefit from my volunteer work with MFA’s annual Immigrant and Minority Farmers Conference. My farmer friend Vince Xiong is one of five recipients of a Slow Food scholarship to attend the bi-annual Slow Food Terra Madre Conference in Italy, and the Big River Slow Food event celebrated Vince’s scholarship and benefited other farmers enrolled the MFA program. Not a gig I wanted to turn down.
Sunday began with a tour of MFA’s farm as guests walked through the fields with Farm Manager Aaron Blyth. Aaron told us about MFA’s training program with immigrant and minority farmers who spend three years learning to operate sustainable and organic vegetable farms. Back at the barn musicians entertained guests who bid on silent auction items and tasted local wines, beers, spirits, and soda. Minnesota Slow Food’s Jane Rosemarin and MFA Director Glen Hill introduced farmers who have participated in MFA’s training.
Ti Moo spoke in poetic terms why he farms, “If you ask me why I like farming I cannot say. I feel the sun beat on my skin and I feel happy. When the plant grows I feel happy. When the plant turns green I feel happy. When the plant withers I feel sad. I don’t know why.”
Vince admitted he doesn’t love farming. But he understands that farming is a way of connecting with his culture and giving back to his community. When he saw other Hmong getting sick from cancer and heart disease he saw farming healthy food as a tool to heal them.
The star of the event, besides the farmers, was the amazing dinner, especially Red Wattle, the heirloom pork we were served during the third course. Donations from local chefs, restaurants, museums, and food and hospitality services brought in thousands of auction dollars and fed more than 100 guests.
Harvest Dinner Menu
Crostini with whipped rillettes and celery-orange marmalade (Lucia’s)
Marinated and grilled skewered chicken with curried peanut sauce (Sen Yai Sen Lek)
Gougères with a whipped gorgonzola mousse
45th Parallel Vodka drinks, Joia sodas, Lift Bridge beer, wine, Crispin cider
First Course (Sen Yai Sen Lek):
Curried walleye cakes with long bean salad
Saint Croix Vineyard La Crescent
Second Course (Corner Table):
Fire-roasted autumn fruits and vegetables with Wild Acres duck prosciutto
Third course (Lucia’s):
Choucroute Royale: Grilled and braised cuts of *Red Wattle pork and sausage served with Minnesota black currant sauerkraut and sauce gribiche.
A platter of Big River vegetables in a fines-herbes vinaigrette
Alexis Bailly Voyageur
Dessert (Patisserie 46):
Red-wine poached plums with tarragon ice cream
Chocolates from St. Croix Chocolate Co.
Alexis Bailly Reserve Chocolate Port