Part country fair, part agricultural conference, and part farmer’s market, the Guelph-Wellington Taste Real Local Food Fest is mostly about building a sense of community among people interested in the story of local food.
Some 1,800 people attended the festival Sunday, held on the grounds of the Ignatius Jesuit Centre just north of Guelph. It was a busy, buzzing place, with live music, games, food prepared by local restaurants, and fruits, vegetables and associated products in the marketplace.
But it was the workshops that were really taking off, said Christina Mann, the Taste Real coordinator at the County of Wellington.
“We’re building on the successful skill-building workshops,” said Mann, listing bread making, bee keeping, foraging, fermenting and butchering on the agenda this year.
“The backyard chickens are back," she said. "They are super popular. People are engaging with the workshops and that’s different from other food festivals. We want people to understand where their food comes from.”
The business Garnishes led kids through a food prep workshop, to show them they can really help in the kitchen.
Mann said last year the Taste Real festival won a tourism award from the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance and the workshops are what raised it above other contenders.
“The judges were impressed with the connection from farm to food," she said. "With us, visitors can really take the journey of food."
Brian Manley, head butcher at Trotters Butcher Shop, led a workshop that explained the proper way to butcher meat and what to do with different cuts.
There was a line-up for the fermenting workshop and adults and kids craned their necks to see the chickens in the Backyard Bok Bok chicken coop.
“The more people take the opportunity to explore these connections, the more they will care about the food they eat,” Mann said. “And the quality of local food is incredible. It can be a real eye-opener.
Mann said people also care about supporting local business, “and that includes farmers and food suppliers,” she said. “There’s an economic impact and this festival highlights this as well.”