Building Bridges in West Michigan at Local First’s Fork Fest

Local First West Michigan Fork Fest 2016 - Bountiful MichiganSupporting local means building bridges between business and consumer. It’s community. It’s sustainability. Our philosophy, here at Eat Local West Michigan; eating local involves connecting local food sources in West Michigan with the local communities.  Bringing more awareness to our neighbors and their families on what is available in our communities when it comes time for fresh local ingredients.  Local First West Michigan once again offered a community event this past week in Grand Rapids.  The 6th Annual Fork Fest 2016 was the bridge connecting businesses with the consumer. The goal of strengthening the relationship between community members and our food sources was a big success.Fork Fest West Michigan - Local First

Local First West Michigan’s intention is to educate the public on the importance of creating and maintaining a sustainable community, and Fork Fest offers people a first-hand opportunity to make those important connections. By supporting local businesses, the local community fuels our economy and, in turn, receive quality ingredients that aren’t questionably disguised in Styrofoam and plastic cases.  Over 40 local vendors participated in Fork Fest 2016.  The event was located inside the beautiful greenhouses owned by Romence Gardens. The setting was decorated with local mums, greenery, fall foilage and amazing aromas coming from banquet tables filled with fresh local ingredients all sourced from West Michigan farms and specialty producers.

If you enjoy food and have a desire to source your ingredients from local businesses, the platform was perfect for tantalizing your taste buds as well as connecting you to small businesses that are members of Local First West Michigan.  The indulgences just kept coming the entire event.  There were many highlights worth mentioning.

Adult beverages were provided by Fenn Valley Vineyards, Vander Cider Mill and Brewery Vivant.  Executive Chef Chris Weimer and his Brewery Vivant’s kitchen team held true to their “keeping it fresh and local” philosophy.  Brewery Vivant’s daily specials feature ingredients that are fresh and in season. They operate a “scratch kitchen”. From soup to nuts, their menu is made in-house and they take pride in the increased quality that this creates.  They treated the attendees to local cherry tomatoes filled with bacon aoli and micro basil.  Their carrot cake with cream cheese icing and candied carrot top hit the sweet tooth just right.

Local Cherry Tomatoes Brewery Vivant

Brewery Vivant Carrot Cake

Ticket holders were treated to a great variety of food from local vendors.  Farm raised, grass-fed beef brisket was smoked to perfection by Heffron Farms owner, Dennis Heffron. In season cabbage, carrots, onion (pickled) and cilantro from local farms, along with tender pieces of short ribs, were blended together for an amazing nacho salad by The Winchester.  Fresh farm cream was churned into smooth and flavorful artisan ice creams by Furniture City Creamery as well as Love’s Ice Cream.  Corkscrew pasta turned over a whole new leaf with jalapeno mac and cheese by Twisted Rooster.  Wholesome grains were blended together with a whole lot of love with freshly baked cookies by Pauls’Moms’ Cookies in partnership with Degage Ministries.  Their partnership builds bridges between a cookie business and Degages’ Open Door Women’s Center in Grand Rapids. A great local charity.  We were thrilled to see small local chocolatier, MoKaya, represented at Fork Fest.  Their decadent truffles and gourmet chocolate display was tantalizing and brought flashbacks of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory – magical!  Such artisanship.  Instantaneous smiles.  Live music playing, attendees tapping their feet to the beat while consuming some of Grand Rapids best kept secrets (and favorites).

Daddy Pete's BBQ - Fork Fest 2016

Short Rib Cabbage Nachos

MoKaya Chocolates and Truffles

Fork Fest 2016 further bridged the understanding of the food-making process by including a butchering demonstration by Louise Earl Butcher. Attendees watched owner Matt Smith as he showed the captive group the start-to-finish process of making pork chops and loins with meat sourced from a local farm. Louise Earl Butcher is all about sourcing local.  They are one of the only whole-animal butcher shop, that fabricates everything in house in Grand Rapids.  Matt and his team personally visit each of the farms they represent, to meet the farmers, and see the way the animals are being raised. They also believe in a responsibility to our community and environment. They recycle in their shop, as well as compost, so that they can contribute to the circle of life, responsibly.

Local First West Michigan encourages businesses to more deeply engage with their customers, their environment, and each other. Their team helps small businesses develop better practices in order to do more good and continue to return investment to the community. They envision a West Michigan filled with businesses that intentionally foster community, care for our environment, and build wealth for all.  Way to go, Local First and all 40 local vendors who took initiatives at Fork Fest to be a part of the bridges that are forming in West Michigan!

Whaddaya think?