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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Vizcaya dinner recognizes South Florida farmers

South Florida farmers were honored last month, at the inaugural Dinner for Farmers, sponsored by Vizcaya Museum and Gardens and Edible South Florida.

Farmers were recognized for their hard work in growing and harvesting the produce that appears on tables in South Florida and beyond in the midst of a challenging growing season marked by record rainfall and the Oriental Fruit Fly quarantine.

Chef Aaron Brooks of Edge, Steak & Bar set up a rotisserie for his chicken with black sapote mole as seen here.

 “I am so proud to have hosted the first Dinner for Farmers at Vizcaya. More than any other activity we have had in recent years, this beautifully executed event demonstrated the incredible potential for honoring and promoting community-based agriculture and creating unique educational experiences in the historic Vizcaya Village,” said Joel Hoffman, Vizcaya's Executive Director. “Our partnership with Edible South Florida and the farming community as a whole is critically important to Vizcaya as farming is central to the estate’s origins and to its future as a community resource.”

Urban Oasis Project founder Melissa Contreras and current president Art Friedrich, enjoyed the feast.

Chef Kris Wessel of upcoming Wessel's Tropical BarBQ and team with dinner guests.

Tropical fruit farmers Walter Chefitz and Adena Ellenby of LNB Groves.
Chef Venoy Rogers of Essensia used local citrus, kale and bok choy.

Seven local community farmers were honored for their contributions in the following categories:

Sowers and Shakers – Recognizes innovative and sustainable farming practice: PNS Farms, Alice Pena

Cover Crop – These farmers use social media to cover the happenings of their farms, fertilizing their ever-growing community of followers and supporters: Little River Cooperative, Tiffany Noe and Muriel Olivares

Enriched Soil – These farms enrich the soil of their community by putting their farms to work for a larger cause (social justice): Verde Community Farm and Market, Chuck Lyons

Homesteader – Honors the creative problem-solving that all farmers, like pioneers, need to use when problems crop up: Bee Heaven Farm, Margie and Nick Pikarsky

Plowing Through – Focusing on experimentation and the determined cultivation of something difficult to grow: Paradise Farms Organic, Gabriele Marewski

Growing it Forward – Allowing the public to participate and engage with the farm’s mission through educational programming or otherwise: Three Sisters Farm, Jonathan Gambino

It Takes a Village – Part of every village is made up of those who are not direct residents but are still relied upon whenever the need arises. Acknowledging that it takes a village to feed a village, we honor those professionals who are not farmers but support farmers: Urban Oasis Project, Art Friedrich

Awards were reviewed by three judges: Charles LaPradd, Miami-Dade County Agricultural Manager; Bruce Ozga, Dean of Culinary Education at Johnson & Wales University; Jim Stribling, Director, Preston B. Bird/Mary Heinlein Fruit & Spice Park. The awards, kinetic mobile sculptures, were created by Marcela Noriega of Art for Good, a nonprofit dedicated to helping farmworkers prevent heart-related illness.

Many of the farms contributed produce, which a variety of local chefs used to create dishes for the evening’s progressive dinner. Guests were led through various stations set up throughout the Vizcaya Village, each featuring rustic tables by Unearthed Vintage and décor by Anthologie Co. Floristry and Event Design. Top chefs donated their time and talents to turn this local, seasonal produce into delicious dishes.

Kris Wessel, of the soon-to-open Wessel’s Southern Tropical Bar B-Q, made Turmeric-Caimito Glazed Heritage Pork with Cassava Biscuit and Callaloo;

Jimmy Carey of  Jimmy’Z Kitchen served Crispy Plantain Spider with Homestead Avocado Mousse, Pulled Mojo Pork and Pickled Onions;

Niven Patel of Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink dished out Roasted Carrot Soup with Crispy Curry Leaves and Allspice;

Melanie Stewart of Crown Wine & Spirits devised Florida Greens Salad with Fresh Chioggia Beets;

Aaron Brooks of EDGE, Steak & Bar at the Four Seasons Hotel Miami, served Fire-Roasted Mojo Chicken with Black Sapote Mole and Grilled Flatbread with Carambola Habanero Hot Sauce;

Venoy Rogers of Essensia, Jules Kitchen, Wunderbar, created Citrus-Infused Natural Chicken with Wilted Arugula, Heirloom Tomatoes, Grilled Red Onion, Lemony Potatoes, Caimito Mustard and Bok Choy.

Desserts also showcased local products: Earth and Sugar Bakery delivered Vanilla Cake with Berry and Lychee Compote Topped with Meringue and White Chocolate; Giselle Pinto, Sugar Yummy Mama, made Orange Crema di Mascarpone and bonbons.

Contributing farms included Bee Heaven Farm; Florida Keys Honey; Fresh Gardens; GS Dreams Honey; Jerry Is Here; LNB Groves; Paradise Farms; Ready-to-Grow Gardens; Seasons Farm Fresh; Three Sisters Farm and V and B Farms.

Cocktails from mixologist Gabe Urrutia, shown here, of Beam Suntory featured fresh tropical fruit juices. They were accompanied by beer from Wynwood's Concrete Beach Brewery and coffee from new Miami roaster Per’la Specialty Roasters.

“We've seen firsthand the trials these farmers face every year, and this season has been one of the toughest in recent memory,” says Edible South Florida editor Gretchen Schmidt. “This event is just one way we can thank our farmers. And everyone can show their gratitude by supporting them by buying local produce at farmers markets and through CSAs. It's more important than ever.”

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