'Farm to Table' dinner to benefit Elgin food co-op
Nearly 1,000 households have bought shares for the future Shared Harvest food cooperative in Elgin, and volunteers hope a "Farm to Table" dinner will give the effort another bump.
Shared Harvest Board President Pam Echevarria said 938 households have bought shares at $100 each, and more than 1,300 shares have been sold overall.
The 1,000 mark is significant, because Mayor David Kaptain last fall asked the group to achieve that before the city council embarks on any serious discussions about contributing money to the initiative, Echevarria said. "We are almost there."
The "Farm to Table" dinner Oct. 1 will feature a four-course dinner with produce, fruit and meat from local farms, including Echevarria's City Roots Farm near Elgin. Other participants are Klein's Farm in Elgin, Krog's Farm in Elgin, UP Farms of West Chicago, Red Flower Organics of Maple Park, and Noffke's Family Farm based in Michigan.
The dinner will be served at a "friendly community table" outdoors along the promenade of Riverside Drive downtown. In case of bad weather, it will be moved to the nearby event venue Imago Creative Studios.
The event is sponsored by the Downtown Neighborhood Association. All proceeds, after expenses, will go to the co-op, association Executive Director Jennifer Fukala said. "It really fits into our mission of wanting to promote a vibrant downtown," she said.
Chefs Greg Shannon and Eric Klekamp from the Elgin Public House will prepare dishes including roasted pig from All Grass Farms in Dundee Township, risotto with acorn squash, roasted mushroom and carrots, and a salad with sous-vide eggs.
"Cooking with local and fresh food is always great," said Shannon, who credited Klekamp with doing much of the work. "It's a fantastic way to cook.
The dinner is not just about sparking interest in Shared Harvest but raising awareness about locally produced food, Echevarria said. "We want to do this annually. We want to offer this so the people can come together, because food brings people together."
Another milestone for Shared Harvest earlier this year was signing a rent-free lease through 2027 for a vacant area of the Ziegler's Ace hardware store building at 215 Spring St., Echevarria said.
The overall project is estimated at $1.6 million. The group has secured more than $340,000 in loan commitments -- which it needs to extend -- and will embark on another loan campaign in the spring, Echevarria said.
The group is in discussions with food co-op lenders and might pursue a grant from a local bank, she said. Its financial plan calls for $250,000 from the city, but that might change, she said.
Kaptain said the city could consider giving Shared Harvest funds from its downtown tax-increment financing district. Those are tax revenues that, instead of going to taxing bodies like the city or the school district, are reinvested into projects downtown.
Tickets for the dinner are $75 and will be on sale until noon Sept. 29. Those who buy two tickets get a free co-op share, normally $100.