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Local food, arts featured at Arts and Ag Farm-to-Table event

By Linda Bailey

Rowan Tourism Authority

MOUNT ULLA — With the backdrop of the big red Patterson Farm barn, symphony music filled the cooling air, the coral roses of summer filled vases, and guests sipped wine and beer from local breweries beneath a lighted tent for a five-course dinner of locally sourced ingredients.

On the other side of the market, where watermelons, strawberries and blooming baskets of flowers waited, Plein Air artists used their creative talents to interpret that red barn on canvas.

A giant Rowan Arts and Ag logo flashed across the barn, reminding everyone that they were part of Rowan County’s first large farm-to-table celebration, one of the major events in the yearlong Arts & Ag promotion of the Rowan Tourism Development Authority. Proceeds from the celebration, billed as “The Sounds of Music. The Tastes of Home,” will go to local scholarships for study in the arts or agriculture.

James Meacham, CEO of the Tourism Authority, said the evening was an extension of the county branding campaign, “Be an Original.”

“It stems from ‘Kinda Country. Kinda Cool,’ ” Meacham said.

That’s the way the county was described during the branding process.

“Farm-to-table is a way for people to physically experience the brand,” Meacham added.

Tara Furr, director of public relations for the Tourism Authority, said the yearlong promotion is the first time the authority has worked with partners on such a large scale.

“It’s really rewarding, not only bringing this experience to Rowan County but also working together with partners throughout the entire county,” Furr said.

Deborah Steeter and Bill Clark of New Castle, Delaware, were taking part in their first farm-to-table event with her sister, Janice, and her husband, Brian Dare, of Charlotte.

“I hope that they do this every year,” Streeter said.

Brad Ellison of Davidson, attending with friend Robert Morgan of Kannapolis, called it “a hidden gem.”

“You’d have to look wide and far for something like this,” Ellison said. “It plays to (the county’s) strengths.”

Morgan said it was a good way to support the Patterson Farm family and local businesses.

Liz Rader of Mooresville came with Sue Stevens. They are in a garden club together and like to support farms.

“I have more people I will bring next time,” Rader said.

Wendy Safrit of Salisbury also had a few words of praise: “We will be back.”

Her son, Hunter Safrit, conducted an ensemble from the Salisbury Symphony, using a play list of what he called Americana — “the type of music that reminds you to go back to your roots,” he said.

R&B singer Mother Blues of East Spencer entertained as the pink of the sunset began to color the fields. Mother Blues, after fleeing New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and experiencing a house fire here, is convinced that Rowan County is her place.

“Everybody knows your name,” she said. “Everything you need is right here. I’m thankful that this is where God put me.”

Darrell Blackwelder, a retired Rowan County Extension agent, and his wife, Gerrie, are hoping for “a permanent installation” of the Patterson Farm program.

“Twice a year,” he said, “in the spring and in the fall.”

Joe and Amy Sternad of Concord have a love of local food and like to support the community.

Richard and Susan Wolff of Salisbury said a benefit for arts and ag is neat.

“We own a bed-and-breakfast and try to find different activities for our guests,” Susan Wolff said.

Rowan County Commissioner Judy Klusman, a retired farmer, said the evening was “marvelous. Putting arts and ag together is very creative.”

With Morgan Ridge Vineyard in charge of food and chef Jason Nain in the tented kitchen, Amie Baudoin of Morgan Ridge spent her time making sure everything was perfect. With 20 years in the food industry to her credit, Baudoin said, “We know where the local food is. We’re all about local, fresh and seasonal.”

The food was sourced from Better Loafing Bread Co. of Salisbury, Cherry Hill Farm of Mocksville, Correll Farms of Cleveland, Fading D Farm of Salisbury, Sandy Creek Farm of Lexington, Spring Lake Family Farms of Albemarle, the Pecan Man of Salisbury, Two Pigs Farm of Cleveland, and Wild Turkey Farm of China Grove, as well as Patterson Farm and Morgan Ridge Vineyards.

To make the tables “originally country,” Baudoin spent time searching flea markets for mixed china to set colorful tables, complemented by floral arrangements of roses, hydrangeas and other naturals by Gwyn Overcash of Petals Floral Design and Event Decor.

“I wanted to mimic Sunday dinner at Grandma’s,” Baudoin said.

The next Arts and Ag events are Riot at Walnut Hill, 1090 Mountain Road, Cleveland, 3-7 p.m. May 20; Farm Tour Weekend, a free, self-guided tour of 12 farms and artists, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. June 2 and 1-5 p.m. June 3; and Pops at the Post, 131 W. Innes St., 8 p.m. June 2, with afternoon activities also included.

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