Comstock’s recently spoke with Sidney Scheideman, event manager for the upcoming, fourth annual Farm-to-Fork Festival, about the increasing popularity of the event, its positive impact on the Capital Region’s fledgling culinary reputation, and what we can expect to see from the festival this year and in the many years to come.
If there’s anyone left in Sacramento that doesn’t already know, can you tell us: What is the Farm-to-Fork Festival?
Well, in 2012, Mayor Kevin Johnson claimed Sacramento “America’s Farm-to-Fork capital,” and to really capitalize on that initiative, we [the Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau] took it upon ourselves to create a month’s worth of events to celebrate what Sacramento is, year-round. We chose September because it’s a big harvest time in the region, and it celebrates farmers, ranchers, wineries, breweries — pretty much every producer in the Sacramento region. So the first year started out with a kick-off event and then led into a wine tasting (the “Legends of Wine” event), and then the Farm-to-Fork Festival, and then of course we finished the month’s celebration with the Tower Bridge dinner. Since then, each of those events has grown significantly, and I think the biggest one has been the Farm-to-Fork Festival.
So the Farm-to-Fork Festival has grown exponentially since its start four years ago; what sort of plans and changes were needed to accommodate the huge number of festival attendees?
The first year we anticipated maybe 5,000 people, and it ended up being about 15,000 people. Last year, we had over 65,000 who attended the free festival. We don’t charge, it’s a free event — once you get in, you can walk around for free and it’s family-friendly. So this year, because of the demand of both vendors and the attendance numbers, we’ve expanded the festival two additional blocks. The festival will now go from 3rd Street all the way to 9th Street along Capitol Mall and utilize each of the side streets. We’re hoping this year to have about 75,000 attendees.
Is there anything else quite like the Farm-to-Fork Festival in the Capital Region?
I don’t think that there’s anything quite like this in California, let alone the rest of the country. It’s an enormous one-day festival. A lot of festivals will be an entire weekend but this is just a one-day event. It’s much larger than anything that I’ve seen.
Are there any requirements to participate as a vendor at the Sacramento Farm-to-Fork Festival?
I think that one of the main difference between our event and the others around the country is that we’re very very particular about the types of vendors that are at the event. Food vendors need to source all their products within 200 miles and we make that a requirement. We don’t sell soda onsite, just because it doesn’t really fit with the message of Farm-to-Fork. All the wineries and breweries that participate included are within a 200-mile region and most are closer than that. We usually delineate the Farm-to-Fork messaging to the surrounding six counties of Sacramento. But all of the beer is local, craft beer, all the wine is local, regional wine.
What is the future of the Farm-to-Fork Festival, and what can we expect to see from it in the years to come?
Eventually, we’d love to see this become a two-day event, and I think eventually we’ll have to find somewhere that has a little more space. I don’t know if that’s within the next two years or five years or 10 years, but I think we need to find somewhere that accommodates a lot more people, because this event is just so wildly popular and I don’t think we saw that coming, since this is only the fourth year of the event. Every year, we try and make a couple of changes to each of our events, just to keep things new and fresh; so it’s hard to say what it will look like in five years, but I definitely think it’s going to be a lot larger. We’re really trying to make a mark in the food community. We want Sacramento to be known as a culinary destination and an agricultural destination. If you’re in the culinary or agriculture food, farm business, you want to be in Sacramento in September. And I think we’ve made a pretty good mark so far but I think that it’s just going to keep growing.
The Farm-to-Fork Festival will be held on Sept. 24, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the Capitol Mall. Find out more information at www.farmtofork.com.
Now in its third year, Sacramento’s Farm-to-Fork month features events to stimulate your appetite and your curiosity. The Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau promises more beer, an innovative conference and plenty of delicious tacos with locally-sourced ingredients.
The Center for Land-Based Learning launched the Urban Farm Program in 2014 on a city-owned lot and with seed funding from two local banks. Fiery Ginger uses land owned by the Washington Unified School District. Other farmers use private property, for four sites total, representing six separate farm businesses — with two more to be added by 2017