A crowd of hungry Turlock community members braved the heat and took over Main Street Thursday evening at the first annual Dinner at Dusk farm to table event, enjoying an evening full of drinks, entertainment and a delicious meal made from locally-grown crops.
Farm to table events have become increasingly popular throughout the nation, supporting local farmers while providing communities with an outdoor dining experience. Turlock’s benefit event was a partnership between Stanislaus Grown, Women in Agriculture for Mentoring and Empowerment, Kristin Bettencourt, who was looking to host a high school scholarship fundraiser, and Downtown Turlock. The Dinner at Dusk Committee was a small group, comprised of only five members: Bettencourt, Brandi LoForti, Pam Sweeten, Lori Marchy and Trina Walley.
“It truly is a family experience,” said Bettencourt. “It’s one table, all of us eating together. With all of the things going on in our country, from politics to mass shootings, I think it’s important that we do come together as a community and sit at a table, eating food that has literally come from our backyard.”
Twinkling lights illuminated Main Street, setting the tone for an evening that surely sparked a tradition. The dinner featured ingredients that were all donated by local farmers, including Ratto Brothers Produce, Bernardi Produce, Cipponeri Family Farms, VanderHelm Farms, Loretelli Farms, Nutcher Milk, Hilltop Ranch, Sunrise Bakery, Turlock Walnut Company, Fiscalini Farms, Cal Sweet Potatoes, Sweet Potato Spirits, McManis Winery and Green Acres Farmstead. Sandude Brewing Company and Dust Bowl Brewing Company provided drinks for attendees as well.
“We wanted to donate our time and product because we’ll always do anything to support local, especially since we’re the hometown brewery,” said Dust Bowl Sales Representative Trina Estrada. “I feel like everyone is family here.”
All proceeds from the event benefitted WAME, Stanislaus Grown, Kiwanis of Turlock and the Dinner at Dusk Ag and Community Volunteerism Scholarships. According to Bettencourt, scholarships developed from the generated funds will be awarded to students from Turlock High School, Pitman High School and Turlock Christian High School who have a background in agriculture and also are involved in community outreach and involvement.
“The entire event is focused around young people in agriculture, and that’s where the money is going,” said Sweeten, who is also WAME founding member.
Local restaurants also joined forces to provide food for the evening, such as Red Brick Bar and Grill, Center Street Bar and Grill, 10 East, and Toscana’s. Though local farmers donated the ingredients, it was the chefs of these local restaurants that attended Dinner at Dusk Committee meetings and developed tasty recipes for the event’s appetizers and sides, including Neto’s Catering which cooked the prime rib and pork tenderloin that was provided. For 10 East owner Derek Walker, donating to the cause was something he couldn’t pass up.
“Being a part of the downtown restaurant community, we believe events like this help to promote a good cause and support the local ag community,” said Walker. “We think that Turlock has one of the best downtowns in the entire Central Valley, and it’s awesome to be able to showcase it throughout the community.”
While the dinner was held to raise funds for both scholarships and local organizations, the event also emphasized the importance of eating local to support farmers in the area. Beverly Wallace decided to attend Dinner at Dusk for that very reason.
“I thought it sounded wonderful,” said Wallace. “We are almond farmers ourselves, so it’s nice to know that there are people who donate and that the attendees in turn will go out and support the farmers.”
Wallace donated the eucalyptus that adorned the tables’ center, and centerpieces made from surprisingly beautiful lettuce bouquets were donated by Dana Kirkes of Le Fleur.
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Local high school students lent a hand as well, with key clubs from both PHS and THS and the THS Relay for Life Club assisting with serving and any other help that the event organizers needed.
“Before I was in Key Club, I never realized that Turlock came together like this,” said PHS student Adourin Malco. “It’s awesome to see the community come together and put on an event as successful as this.”
Mayor Gary Soiseth attended the festivities as well, and sees the event becoming a staple in Turlock’s flourishing downtown culture.
“It’s great to see the community come out and support downtown,” said Soiseth. “I see this becoming a great tradition in Turlock. The turnout is overwhelming – Kristin Bettencourt and the whole team did a great job putting this together.”