Residents at the Parkland Antigonish retirement living residence enjoyed a delicious feast at their meal hall, last week. That feast was all the more delicious knowing most of what went into it was from very close to home.
The feast, the final event in the Farm to Table Festival, entailed a meal that was made completely from locally sourced ingredients.
Farm to Table was a collaboration between Parkland, the New Growers Association and the Sisters of St. Martha. The ingredients in the feast were either grown by the New Growers Association or on local farms in the Antigonish area.
The Sept. 14 feast was a wrap-up for the Farm to Table Festival, a week-long celebration of locally-sourced food, and how that food makes it from the garden or field, to people’s plates.
The meal in its entirety was made from ingredients gathered from local farms and gardens. In the case of the latter, food was grown near Parkland by the New Growers Association, affiliated with the Sisters of St. Martha.
Ingredients in the meal included bread made in house with local ingredients, string beans, carrots, turnips, potatoes – among many others.
“It’s basically a partnership with the New Growers Association,” Melissa Muir, the executive chef with Parkland, said.
Muir said Parkland makes an effort to buy as much food as it can from the New Growers Association, and inspire eating locally, adding “we want to provide the best food we can for our residents. We’re looking to get past the stereotype that hospital and home food is bad.”
Muir noted the festival constituted a celebration of that close connection between staff at Parkland and local providers of food. Staff regularly incorporate everything from beef and fish, to assorted fresh vegetables – ones that are quite often from down the road.
“It is great because it’s flexible,” Muir said of the menu they can offer with local fare. “The growers give us a weekly list of what’s available and we tailor our menu to it.”
In light of this, Muir says she and the other chefs run a changing rotation of meals that changes seasonally, to provide fresh meals for residents.
Maria VanBerkel, a wellness coach with Parkland, noted the Sept. 14 feast was the last in a series of activities she and her team brainstormed up. These included an opportunity for residents to see, pet and learn about chickens and goats, a barbecue and meet and greet with local food growers, and a tour of the gardens of the New Growers Association.
Sr. Dolores Sogz, one of the people enjoying the feast, described the entire week as “really delightful,” adding that her personal favourite dish was the beef stew.
Sogz, who used to grow a number of crops in her own garden, including squash and pumpkins, and who helped out a great deal growing up on a farm herself, expressed how impressed she was with the quality of the local fare.
“It was great to help yourself to the food and intermingle with one another,” Sogz said.