Visitors and vendors alike at the first ever Taste of the Roanoke Valley Food Expo, held last Friday, were pleased by both the turnout and the amount of local products available.
At day’s end about 1,000 people paid $2 to visit 40 booths. They were rewarded with piping hot corn on the cob, tastes of freshly cut beef or chicken, dairy products, cooking demonstrations and live band music.
“We got to the ice cream and decided to stop,” Ed Tutle of Hollins said as he and his wife took a break from a scorching sun.
A big bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream from Homestead Creamery drove the heat away as they surveyed the scenic vistas offered at the Recreation Park at the Botetourt Center at Greenfield.
“We like to the fresh and local food,” Ellen Tutle said. “This is a nice chance to find out where we can get more local stuff.”
That was the reason for the event, which was sponsored by Virginia Cooperative Extension offices in Craig, Botetourt and Alleghany counties. Botetourt County Parks and Recreation assisted in staffing, along with dozens of volunteers.
The Roanoke Natural Foods Co-op (on Grandin Road) set up a booth to hand out information about healthy eating. The local Virginia Farm Bureau branches hawked their insurance products and urged folks to support local establishments. Local farms like Jeter Farm and Ikenberry Orchards displayed – and sold – bushel baskets full of fresh veggies.
People clapped to the sounds of No Strings Attached and then learned about water quality issues from Mountain Castle Soil and Water Conservation District employees.
Charlie Woods of Vinton displayed a collection dating back to 1890, more than 400 labels belonging to various farming and canning concerns that once operated in the Roanoke Valley. He also demonstrated how lids were once placed on cans by hand.
“They used lead back then,” he noted. “They wouldn’t allow that now.”
Jean Wonderley of Pilot and her daughter Lisa, who lives in Cloverdale, took a break with a free ice cream cone from the United Dairy folks.
“I can’t believe all this produce,” Wonderley said.
The event was like a big farmer’s market, she said, adding that she was glad she came even though it was a long drive.
Dennis and Jennifer Jamison of Jamisons’ Orchard Farm Market in Roanoke County showcased a variety of homemade items like apple butter, jellies and jams. They also make about 6,000 pounds of hard candy each fall, Jamison said, something the family has doing since the 1960s.
In the last two years, the local food phenomenon has arrived in the Roanoke Valley with some momentum. Three farmers markets in Botetourt, Vinton and Grandin give local producers a different venue for their wares, in addition to downtown Roanoke’s historic market.
The Food Expo demonstrated that the area has much to offer – if your goal is to eat locally produced goods.By Anita J. Firebaugh firstname.lastname@example.org