I want to get excited about the HarvesTable local foods event taking place on Sunday, July 25, in Chester. According to Elisa Sand's report in last night's MDL, chef John Gilbertson (known hereabouts for his successful work at the erstwhile Tailfeathers Restaurant up Oldham-way a few years back) will whip up a feast from locally grown food from Chester farmer Linda Krsnak, Arlington baker Joan Williams, and Humboldt livestock grower Jared Hansich. There will also be walleye. Yum!
But then I check the price tag: $45.
Yes, Chef Gilbertson is one of the best on the prairie. Yes, you get a six-course meal. Yes, it promotes local foods and a sustainable, self-sufficient economy.
But $45 is not a price for the masses.
Now comparable local farm feasts sponsored by Outstanding in the Field, the national tour on which Krsnak and her partners are basing their HarvesTable event, cost $180 a ticket. So relatively speaking, the Chester event is a bargain.
There's all sorts of business sense in marketing one's product to the market segment with the most disposable income. If you can make a living by marketing your product to folks who can pay twice or three times as much for a product than working folks can afford for basic substitute products, then by all means, sell, sell, sell!
But I don't want local foods to be a niche market. I want to sell my neighbors on the idea that South Dakota can be more self-sufficient, that we can turn more farm production away from corn syrup and ethanol and back to things that are good for people to eat. I want to convince them that local foods are good for our tummies and the local economy
When I see the $45 ticket price for HarvesTable, I get the same sinking feeling as when I visit the Co-op Natural Foods in Sioux Falls: love the products, want to buy them all the time, would go broke if I did. So would most of my neighbors.
It frustrates me not to have the money to put all of my principles into practice. The HarvesTable folks share my principles. They want to promote real family farming and local economy. I'm sure they can find enough consumers who can afford $180 for a family meal and a great rural experience.
Unfortunately, the other 97% of us will still have to settle for the specials at Hy-Vee.
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