French fries, hash browns and Tillamook cheese packs are dietary staples at the annual Hermiston Farm Fair, providing a quick, dependable snack for attendees in between day-long seminars about growing healthy crops.
This year, organizers decided to expand the Farm Fair’s culinary offering as part of an opening day reception Wednesday, Nov. 29 for event sponsors and trade show vendors, featuring simple dishes such as Asian carrot salad and whole grain blueberry muffins that showcase the region’s vast agricultural variety.
The reception will run from 5:15 to 7 p.m., closing out the first day of Farm Fair at the Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Center. Debbie Pedro, director of the Greater Hermiston Area Chamber of Commerce, said they expect to serve at least 100 people over the course of the evening.
It is the first year the Farm Fair will host a reception for sponsors and vendors, and should not be confused with the public Farm Fair Banquet, which is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 30 at the Hermiston Conference Center. Tickets are $30, and may be purchased at the chamber of commerce office.
Angie Treadwell, SNAP-Ed Program coordinator for Umatilla and Morrow counties, was put in charge of the menu for the reception, and has tracked down a number of recipes making use of locally grown potatoes, carrots, broccoli and other veggies.
“We’re lucky to live where we are, where things grow so well,” Treadwell said. “I thought it would be really cool to highlight all the different crops we do out here.”
Treadwell, who works for Oregon State University Extension Service, says her passion is helping kids and families learn the skills they need for healthy cooking and living. Through the SNAP-Ed Program — which stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — Treadwell works with the Hermiston, Umatilla and Morrow County school districts teaching classes on food prep and nutrition.
“We’re just trying to give people the tools and resources to make choices that benefit their health,” she said.
Dishes will use as many local ingredients as possible, Treadwell said, including different varieties of potatoes and vegetables grown directly at OSU’s Hermiston Agricultural Research and Extension Center. And, for the more adventurous diner, Treadwell said she is also trying to bring in dry roasted grasshoppers and crickets — a nod to Silvia Rondon and the HAREC insect research program.
“I thought that would be fun,” Treadwell said with a grin. “This is a taste adventure. If you don’t try new things, you might miss something that you like.”
Farmers throughout the Columbia Basin are responsible for growing more than 200 different types of specialty crops, and Treadwell said her goal is for people to gain an appreciation of the bounty local agriculture has to offer.
“Farm to table is really big,” Treadwell said. “We’re bringing the table part. (Our growers) have the farm part on lockdown.”
As for daily grub, the 44th annual Hermiston Farm Fair will continue to offer free snacks courtesy of locally based corporate sponsors, including fries from Lamb Weston, potato chips from Shearer’s Foods, Tillamook cheese and, for the final year before closing, a soup of the day prepared by Hermiston Foods. Pendleton Bottling Company will also provide Pepsi products to drink.
Contact George Plaven at email@example.com or 541-966-0825.