More than a year ago, Keith Sarasin organized the first-ever Farmers Dinner in Nashua, hoping to promote local farmers and New Hampshire grown produce.
Now, after planning his fifth Farmers Dinner event this year, Sarasin has hopes of expanding his initiative to all areas of the state.
His long-term goal is to organize two dinners a week at New Hampshire restaurants that feature local farmers and their best ingredients.
The Farmers Dinner was initially established as an opportunity for local farmers to bring their produce, meats and eggs into dining establishments where chefs then create four-course meals while participants are educated about the farming experience, according to Sarasin, a former chef turned graphic designer.
"When I was a chef, I noticed that restaurants were ordering from Sysco when there were amazing farms just miles away," said Sarasin. "I noticed that disconnect and I began visiting local farmers who told me they are fearful of competing with Shaw's and other, bigger places. They are not sure what the future of farming looks like."
Some of the local farmers that have participated in The Farmers Dinner include Brookdale Farm in Hollis, Normanton Farms in Litchfield, Lull Farms in Hollis, Heart Song Farm in Gilmanton, Misty Knoll Farm of New Haven, Vt.,and local beekeeper Kagen Weeks.
Kimball Farms of Hollis was featured the most recent Farmers Dinner, held Sunday at the Copper Door in Bedford. On the menu was rustic autumn soup made from locally-grown squash, carrots, apples, pears, turnips and sage, along with a poached pear salad. Grass fed roasted pepper crusted tenderloin from Rickety Ranch of Hollis will be the entree for the evening, paired with pumpkin souffle from Jake's Homemade Ice Cream.
"What we want to do is encourage people to not only see the healthy benefits of locally grown food, but also encourage them to get out and get into the kitchen," said Sarasin. "This is about inspiring people to get back to the basics."
While promoting foods such as arugula, Sarasin said it helps to provide individuals with a fantastic dish featuring the leafy vegetable, along with a recipe card so that families can attempt the meal at home.
For each dinner, an average of 85 people are invited, according to Sarasin, who said he plans to take some of his meals to local farms in 2014. Several area restaurants, including the former Saffron Bistro on Main Street in Nashua, have played host to The Farmers Dinner.
Sarasin is now branching out from southern New Hampshire, and is organizing events along the Seacoast while working with a variety of farms in different portions of the state.
"We just keep growing," he said, adding there was a waiting list with more than 100 people for his last event in September. Making the meals even more entertaining are the local farmers who have the opportunity to talk to the customers, educate them about what they do and stress the significance of their products, according to Sarasin.
For Jeremy St. Hilaire, owner of Great Harvest Bread Co. of Nashua, the Farmers Dinner is an ideal venue to promote his local premium breads.
"We stone mill every ounce of flour in our building. We have this connection to the farm in a very serious and sincere way," said St. Hilaire. "Everything we make here is handmade, and it is nice to connect with local restaurants that have those same ideals. I think the people of New Hampshire are coming back to that now, and are really seeking this out."
The Farmers Dinner helps the public learn more about local, fresh and homemade products, while also allowing people to meet the farmers behind those fantastic tomatoes, squash or beef, explained St. Hilaire.
For more information, visit www.thefarmersdinner.com