Homegrown, downtown: Vassar plans farm-to-table meal

Townsfolk gather in Jonesboro, Tennessee for a farm-to-table dinner. Julie Blossom of Vassar plans a similar event this summer in downtown Vassar, with guests dining on linen-covered tables, eating locally-sourced food prepared by locally-owned restaurants, on M-15 in downtown Vassar. Profits would pay for a college scholarship for a Vassar High School graduate. (Facebook photo)
Townsfolk gather in Jonesboro, Tennessee for a farm-to-table dinner. Julie Blossom of Vassar plans a similar event this summer in downtown Vassar, with guests dining on linen-covered tables, eating locally-sourced food prepared by locally-owned restaurants, on M-15 in downtown Vassar. Profits would pay for a college scholarship for a Vassar High School graduate. (Facebook photo)

In this Tuscola County farm town with locally-owned restaurants growing on the vine, the first Vassar Farm-to-Table Dinner is planned for this summer — with ticket purchasers eating locally-sourced food while dining at linen-covered tables on M-15 in downtown Vassar.
“We’re so far down the field with this one already, and it’s happened so quickly, that I really believe it was meant to be, and it’s going to be a wonderful thing for this community, and in many ways,” said Julie Blossom, 51, of Vassar, organizer of the meal that would raise money for a Vassar High School graduate studying agricultural science or culinary arts.
Blossom said she has teamed with Darren Drew, co-owner of Sam & Ruby’s The Corner Deli/Café in Vassar, to put the menu together for the dinner, served at tables placed on East Huron Avenue (M-15) between Main Street and Cass Avenue.
“Each of the restaurants downtown will be responsible for preparing a certain course,” Blossom said.
The menu features appetizers, a salad, side dishes, a main course and desserts provided by SweetCakes Cakery in Vassar, population 2,639.
“There will be linens and china — it’s not going to be paper plates,” Blossom said. “It’s going to be creative, upscale cooking, with an elegant touch.”
Blossom said Martin’s Farm Fresh Produce in Tuscola County’s Juniata Township will furnish produce, Vassar’s Forever Green store will grow all herbs used in food and centerpieces, and Larry Keinath of Tuscola Township will raise chickens used to provide meat.
Other contributors include Dave and Lisa Streeter, of Streeter Beef in Tuscola County, who will furnish beef free of hormones and antibiotics, and Toni Oliver of Oliver Farms in Lapeer County will supply organic cheese, Blossom said. Dan and Toni Scribner, of Scrib’s BBQ, will smoke or grill the meat, Blossom said.
Blossom hopes to obtain fruit and jam from Miller’s Family Orchard in Juniata Township, and seeks a supplier of raw local honey.
SweetCakes Cakery will prepare baguettes as appetizers, and make desserts with locally-provided berries. Members of the Vassar High School National Honor Society will serve food, though volunteers are needed, Blossom said.
The cost of the dinner will be covered by business sponsorships, and sales of tickets provide the profits to fund a scholarship. Organizers are thinking of pricing tickets from $35 to $40, selling 75 to 100 tickets.
Blossom, along with Jessica Hunt, Betty Burley, Lisa Cook, Krystal Long and Pam Stillwell-Binder, belong to a committee planning the event.
“Everyone is wanting to pull together, and is so supportive of it,” said Blossom, noting that a Facebook page eventually will be created to provide details and tell how to buy tickets.
Volunteers wishing to help, or businesses wanting to sponsor the event, may email Blossom at: juliehunt1@aol.com.
Seven new locally-owned businesses opened in a one-block stretch of downtown Vassar in 2016, including several eateries.
The Vassar Farm-to-Table Dinner is “just one of those neat events that is not only going to help highlight the downtown businesses in the area, but also hopefully bring in some more outsiders to the downtown to really see how great the downtown has become,” said Brian Chapman, Vassar city manager.
Organizers have not set a date for the dinner. Vassar City Council members must approve closing the street for the event yet, said Chapman, who added that state Department of Transportation officials must also approve the closure of the state highway for the activity.
“We want to try to help facilitate the (event) as much as we can,” Chapman said.
The scholarship provided by funds raised at the dinner “will go to someone studying either agricultural science or culinary arts — two areas where we feel the students don’t normally get the attention,” Blossom said.
Blossom decided to organize the event after spotting an online photo — from “Grit” magazine — of a similar event in Jonesboro, Tennessee.
“I saw the idea and I thought ‘That looks like Vassar,’ and I have a love for nutrition, and healthy eating, and a love for educating people on eating healthfully,” Blossom said. “I’m actually in contact with the people that put on that event.”
Pam Aranyos, 56, of Vassar, co-owner of Martin’s Farm Fresh Produce, 3777 Higgins Road about three miles from Vassar, said the event will give her family business more exposure.
“For me, maybe I can gain some sales (of produce) to the restaurants,” Martin said. “It sounds like a really neat opportunity just to bring exposure to everybody. I think we’ll get hold of some people that we may have missed before. I think it will pick up customers all the way around.”
Tom Gilchrist is a reporter for The Advertiser and can be reached at gilchrist@tcadvertiser.com

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