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Foodie ‘fundraiser in the field’ supports County Food Hub project

Chefs Albert Ponzo (back) and Jamie Kennedy (front) were among County food and beverage vendors serving up food, drinks and fun at the Fundraiser in the Fields Wednesday.

Story and photos by Olivia Timm
Rain quickly turned into sunshine for the sold-out ‘Fundraiser in the Fields’ Wednesday in support of The County Food Hub.

The fields at Parsons Brewing Co., were lined with vendors serving up food, drinks and fun to about 200 guests, while inside the rustic brewery was a silent auction.

Proceeds from the $75 per person fundraiser are earmarked for The County Food Hub – a shared commercial kitchen space proposed to not only keep rural Sophiasburgh Central school open, but also give food businesses a space to create and store their products.

Mike Farrell

Mike Farrell, president of the Food Hub board and co-chair of the steering committee, said he’s appreciative of all who are supportive of the Food Hub.

“It’s not just one type of person, or one type of generation, so that is heartening to see,” he said. “We are near the end, and are doing well with fundraising, but we wanted to do something large that was sort of a media event but also a fundraising event.”

Obviously, a “foodie” event made perfect sense, so Farrell talked briefly about a month ago with Sam Valdivia, the chef at Parsons, who gave an easy ‘Yes.’

The Food Hub proposal embraces local food possibilities and works to provide a dynamic and potentially replicable solution for under-utilized space in an operating elementary school that can offset costs and keep students in school close to their homes.

“The public, businesses and not-for-profit organizations will be able to rent at a very reasonable cost, a health-unit certified shared commercial kitchen space for the safe preparation of food items to support growing businesses and growing food needs in our community,” said Farrell. “There will also be longer-term incubation space that will be leased to qualified local and regional food producers to grow their businesses.”

Chef Albert Ponzo, who will be the head chef of the highly anticipated Royal Hotel expected to open in Picton next year, is a member of the County Food Hub committee.

Local chefs, Farrell said, understand the importance of food and food education. During the planning of the event, Parsons’ chef Sam Valdivia and Albert Ponzo, chef at the coming Royal Hotel, reached out to other chefs in the industry.

“People in the industry, that maybe we hadn’t been as connected with, understand the importance of food and food education and keeping a rural school alive around food seemed like a shared idea for them as well,” he said.

Mel Larkin, who runs the not-for-profit DarkSpark, said as a parent, she’s happy the rural school is staying open for everyone’s benefit.

“I’m super grateful that this committee of people has spearheaded this initiative because so many schools in the County close down and as a parent of a young child, it’s devastating, because I don’t want my daughter shipped into Picton to go to school,” she said. “The fact that our school is going to be re-imagined as this amazing space where kids can learn experientially is really important to me because that is what I do in the not-for-profit we run,” she said. “It also bolsters local agriculture and businesses, which is so amazing.”

Alex Larkin attended both South Marysburgh and Pinecrest public schools. After seeing South Marsyburgh merge with Athol school and Pincrest close completely, she is happy about a rural school remaining open.

She echoed that the commercial kitchen space allows an alternative way of education and learning.

“With such an influx of new, younger people coming into the area, it’s important for local and non-local entrepreneurs to have a space to create, craft and share,” she said.

Farrell gave kudos to Parsons’ owners Chris and Sam and their staff, who came together to provide their time, space and resources to make the event happen.

He said in the next few weeks, the committee will have an update on their financial goal, but that at this point they are 96 per cent there.

So far, the committee has raised around $800,000 in donations, grants and support-in-kind toward a final goal of $845,000 – what they call a staggering achievement for a local group of community-minded volunteers in only seven months of fundraising activity.

The group has until the end of August to meet that requirement.
That money is going toward capital improvements for five classrooms in the west wing of the school – transforming them into a fully-equipped shared commercial kitchen, two food business incubation units and a food education and food distribution centre for the community.

The money also covers the first year of operation in the school.

He said the committee has hit every milestone laid out in the letter of intent with the Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board, and the final milestone is to prove financial liability and obtain a five-year lease for the Food Hub.

“These are very exciting times! We’re about to pull off a minor miracle here with the help of our community, business owners, private donors, the culinary and agri-food industry, parents and students of Prince Edward County.”

Enid Grace describes her mini lemon tarts, macaroons and other sweets offered at the event.

Chef Jamie Kennedy preparing pike dumplings with tomatoes.

Gathered at Parsons are Daliaa Bulgajewski, Sam Valdivia, Kaelen Watters, Riley Grund, Declan Grund, Riz Adam, Chris Parsons, Sam Parsons, Camilla Jamieson, Haley Ferguson, Celeste Hill and Miranda Miller. Front row: Camilla Parsons, Cristina Meillon, Mike Farrell and his two daughters.


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  1. Mike Farrell says:

    On behalf of the County Food Hub a huge and and heartfelt HURRAH to each and every one of you who attended and /or supported our event last night!

    Fundraiser in The Fields for The County Food Hub was a tremendous success because of YOU and your open-hearted support for our project’s mission and vision.

    NO AMOUNT OF THANKS IS ENOUGH to extend to all our amazing local chefs, restos, wineries, breweries, fermenters and beverage makers. BIG THANKS and BIG LOVE !!!!!!

    EAT // Drake Devonshire Inn, EAT With Matthew DeMille, Enid Grace Cafe, Fiddlehead Farm , Jamie Kennedy Kitchens, Midtown Brewing Company Outlet Food Co.., Parsons Brewing Co., Royal Sugar Bakery. The Royal Hotel, The Shore Oysters

    DRINK // Karlo Estates, Keint-he Winery & Vineyards, Midtown Brewing Company., Parsons Brewing Co., Prince Eddy’s Brewing Co… Rosehall Run Vineyards,, Pyramid Ferments, Three Dog Winery The County Soda Company

    As culinary leaders across the whole spectrum of our food industry here in the County (and the Bay of Quinte writ large) we look forward to continue connecting with you to keep the dialogue going and to involve you wherever and whenever you wish. We have had one culinary leader advisory session already and we will most definitely be hosting more – your input, passion and experience are tremendously appreciated and tremendously valuable.

    Big up to our amazing talented friends Villas who brought the party up to another level with a sexy, stylish and beats-driven concert in what we’re now calling “Parsons Concert Hall”. Keep watching these guys -#readyfortheworld!

    A special and SO deserved shout out to the fine, fine people at Parsons Brewing Co for hosting the event, being such great guides to us in organizing the event, managing the beverage folks (thanks Chris Parsons), managing the wild chefs (thanks Samantha Valdivia) , providing a phalanx of eager staff/ volunteers and making it all come off like a dream (thanks Cris Meillon and Samantha Meillon). Rays of sunshine all.

    Special thanks as well to Albert Ponzo at The Royal Hotel for his wisdom and guidance in putting on an event of this culinary calibre. He’s also a County Food Hub Board member dontcha’ know. We loves ya’ Albert!

    Floralora Flowers must also have a spotlight shone on them for the lovely lively and oh-so-cool floral arrangements in the silent auction room….and for just being awesome.

    Unofficially the event raised approximately $15,000 last night for our group – bringing us within $35,000 of our final August 30 goal. We will definitely keep you posted on our progress over the coming days. We will absolutely do this.

    You are ALL so beautiful.

    Peace and great respect – mike (on behalf of the County Food Hub)

    Mike Farrell
    Prince Edward County Food Hub (The County Food Hub)

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