Agricultural diversity is vital to the health of local food systems, but so is the willingness of consumers to trust their farmers and try new foods and new varieties. Grocery stores may show us one or two varieties of a given food, but, in reality, most crops have hundreds of varieties, each with a unique package of tastes and textures, not to mention deep cultural connections to the small-scale farmers who once grew them.
“Not only have we lost the knowledge of growing a variety of different crops, we’ve also lost the creativity associated with preparing the things we grow,” says Jamie Swofford, farmer-chef and board member of The Utopian Seed Project, the new nonprofit arm of Sow True Seed created to support diversity in food and farming through crop variety trials. The Utopian Seed Project now organizes WNC Garlic Fest, happening this year on October 5 from noon to 6 pm at Sow True Seed in downtown Asheville.
“WNC Garlic Fest was created as a way to get people excited about culinary and agricultural experimentation,” says Chris Smith, The Utopian Seed Project’s executive director. “The festival is a showcase of garlic’s versatility, and the aim is to empower people to grow their own garlic as well as think outside the box when it comes to the bulb’s culinary applications.”
The highlight of the festival is the Garlic Trail, where attendees receive a free ‘trail map’ guiding them to seek out authentic garlic experiences offered by participating vendors. The Trail will feature garlic ice cream, fermented garlic, garlic-infused honey, garlic jam and garlic beer, as well as a variety of other garlic treats many have never tried before. Proceeds from beer sales at the festival will benefit The Utopian Seed Project.
“It’s a family-friendly, farmers-market-esque, garlic extravaganza,” says Smith.