One of the most important economic development strategies of Main Street Siloam Springs to revitalize downtown Siloam Springs is hosting the Farmers Market. We are so thankful for our farmers market manager, Stacy Hester, and the many local growers that choose to sell their local products in Siloam Springs on Saturdays and Tuesdays at our market.
Guest writer Morgan Scholz wrote recently about our first ever Siloam Springs Farmers Market Farm to Table Dinner. This piece will be featured in the winter edition of Edible Ozarkansas, a local publication that celebrates the local food, farms and culture of the Arkansas Ozarks, season by season. You can see the current edition of Edible Ozarkansas here.
Once in awhile, the sun, moon, and stars align to create the perfect harmony of fellowship, food, and purpose. This was the case at the first annual Siloam Springs Farmers Market Farm to Table Dinner, though celestial bodies had far less to do with the perfection of the evening than did the passion and inspiration of dozens of devoted community members. Stacy Hester, Siloam Springs Farmers Market Manager, has dreamed for years of facilitating a farm to table experience, and Kurt Plankenhorn and Casey Letellier of 28 Springs Restaurant, Roger and Jennifer Remmington of R Family Farms, Meredith Bergstrom of Main Street Siloam Springs, and many, many other farmers, cooks, musicians, bakers, artisans, and friends cohesively created this perfect celebration of and tribute to eating beautifully and meaningfully.
But really – the stars did intervene, because the weather on September 12th was sublime. The sun lit rolling the green fields of R Family Farm with a golden kiss as the first gentle autumn weekend unfolded. Fat chickens clucked around the farm as visitors toured acres of wooded land filled with creeks (where the pigs live) and flat green ponded pastures (where the cows live). Live front porch bluegrass music from The Sons of Otis Malone strummed and hummed, tables filled with wildflowers, honey, and homemade jams and butter beckoned, and cold, crisp home-brewed Peachy Wheat beer from 28 Springs Chief Drinks Enthusiast Casey Letellier refreshed as guests gathered to dine together.
And dine we did, in bliss and bounty! Figs with cheve and bacon (yes, figs grow in Arkansas). Jalapeno corn muffins, buttermilk biscuits, and parker house rolls. Kale and herb slaw. Marinated fall vegetables. Braised greens with pork belly. Heirloom tomato and okra. Garlic butter and cream whipped potatoes. Mustard and beer roasted fresh ham. Apple and sauerkraut stuffed hens. Hand-stuffed pork sausages. Sweet potato pie with happy goat ice cream. Everything, everything that we consumed was locally sourced and lovingly crafted from the farmers, bakers, and artists sitting right next to us at dinner.
But this event was satisfying to more than just our bellies – the Siloam Springs Farmers Market Farm to Table Dinner was an intentional step in culling and affirming the unique regional food identity of Northwest Arkansas. It was also a tangible reminder of real, effective efforts to coordinate and grow the regional food supply – for example, growers at the Siloam Springs Farmers Market are currently operating at just 60% capacity, meaning that the farmers can grow enough food to feed over 2,000 more people than the market currently reaches. Efforts are underway to authorize local farmers to sell wholesale to regional restaurants, schools, and grocery stores, thus maximizing both the productivity of the farms (whilst stabilizing farmers’ livelihoods) and the accessibility of wholesome, local food to the community. All of these goals and more are in alignment with the Northwest Arkansas Regional Food Assessment’s recommendations for building a robust, equitable regional food system in NWA (report findings published in Edible Ozarkansas Issue 6. Full report available at www.nwafood.org).
Indeed, the Siloam Springs Farmers Market Farm to Table Dinner wasn’t just an incredible meal in a beautiful place with wonderful people, though that alone is deeply, intrinsically good. It was a tribute to years of hard work and dedication, a celebration of the slow, good style of eating and being that’s unique to Arkansas, and a glimpse of the promising future of accessible regional food.
Contributing merchants to the Siloam Springs Farm to Table Dinner:
Lyn & Dan Paskiewicz
M&D Specialty Growers
Opossum Hollow Produce
Pure Joy Ice Cream
“R” Family Farm
The Bread Basket
Vang’s Fresh Market
White River Creamery
– Written by Morgan Scholz