Sustainability: Outstanding in the Field

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We’ll show you how the Farm to Table concept is being taken to a much higher level with a meal prepared on a Gilbert farm with food from that location. It’s part of a national movement called “Outstanding in the Field.”

Ted Simons: Tonight's looks at Arizona sustainability focuses on farm to table movement which calls for a closer connection between small farmers and hungry consumers. Or the standing in the field is taking the farm to table concept to a new level. Producer Shana Fischer and producer Gabe Rodriguez take us to a dinner full of sustenance and sustainability.

Shana Fischer: In the middle of a Gilbert community it's the farm at agritopia. Owned by the Johnson family it's home to 16 acres of organically grown vegetables and heirloom grains first harvested thousands of years ago. Head farmer Eric Schultz is only too happy to share his passion of farming.

Eric Schultz: On the farm we're pretty diversified in what we grow and raise.

Shana Fischer: On this warm, inviting October evening the fruits of labor will be center stage thanks to a national organization called outstanding in the field.

Eden Reilly: We're referred to sometimes as a culinary circus, which it feels very much like that. The idea of the company is to connect people to the source of their food. To highlight the farm and bring people to the farm, to the direct place where what they are eat has been grown.

Shana Fischer: Created in 1999, outstanding in the field is the food child of food chef John den van. The farm selects a local chef to create a menu using the farm's output. On this day it's up to chef Charlene Badman to take 90 diners on a journey that defines farm to table. She's known for her wizardry with vegetables. Her business parent Pavle Millic says it's inspiring.

Pavle Millic: The fact we can look someone in the eye that grew the land, grew the chickens, it's a great way to reconnect, which is why outstanding in the field began with was to bring connection between the land, the farmer, and the restaurant.

Shana Fischer: The farm to table adventure begins with a cocktail hour featuring local wines and beers as well as hors d'oerves made with produce and livestock. Then off for a tour of the farm. Out understand stabbing in the field's tour manager Eden Reilly is a this is crucial in showing people the relevance of small farms.

Eden Reilly: I think it's important. Without the smaller farms we're not able to eat great food. I think that the food system in America has gotten so far from what it should be. Also with pressing environmental issues of our day with climate change, so much of our food system is based on shipping whether it's by semi-truck or flights. If you're eating a strawberry grown in Peru in the middle of December, there's a huge carbon footprint there.

Shana Fischer: The tour ends inside the Orchard where guests are led to an 80 foot long farm table set with white linen and crystal glasses. Keeping with the tradition, Jim started years ago with the first dinner, guests are asked to bring their own plates.

Eden Reilly: People sit down. This is my great-grandmother's plate. This is my wedding China. I bought this at a thrift store but I really liked it. I think it's something for the guest to feel like they are involved and not just, like, sitting down to the same old stuffy experience. Something unique.

Shana Fischer: The food is served family styled on platters. Joanie Simon, who hosts a popular food podcast and blog in Phoenix, relishes opportunities like this.

Joanie Simon: I would say it's helping somebody to understand when food is on your plate where it comes from. That it doesn't just show up in a restaurant, at a grocery store.

Shana Fischer: The story chef badman is telling tonight includes various salads made with carrots, pickled cucumbers and wheat berries and locally produced goat cheese. The main course is chicken and lamb. Both grilled for one of a kind solve taco creation.

Joanie Simon: It's very simple food but at the same time not simple at all. What she is able to do I swear she has a magic wand. You never knew cucumbers could be so delicious.

Shana Fischer: After all, the concept of breaking bread, whether with family, friends, or strangers who quickly become friends, is kind of magical.

Pavle Millic: I believe especially in the restaurant business once you bring together people, food and wine has this alluring, romantic ability to put everyone at the same playing level, and it becomes about the last ritual that we have as human beings to break bread with each other, to create our own conviviality with another human being, what better venue than with food and wine.

Ted Simons: To learn more about out standing in the field's 2015 schedule head to their website, outstandinginthefield .com.

Thursday President Obama will talk about hoisting and we'll learn about a program produced by ASU journalism students on the dangers of heroin. That's it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you for joining us. You have a great evening.

Video: "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of 8, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

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