This post was written by Katherine Fairbanks, a student in the English Program as well as the Civic Agriculture and Food Systems Minor. Thanks Katherine!
If you had pulled up to Kentland Farm a few Fridays ago, you would have been amazed at the vintage cider press getting cranked. This soon-to-be annual event turned out to be a success and an opportunity to connect with new members of the community. On October 25th, students and some of the full time workers at Kentland Farms collaborated to put together a “Fall Fun Day” for the Blacksburg and Christiansburg community. The event was the first of its kind, meant to be a test run for what students hoped would be an annual event.
At four o’clock, cars were already parked in the gravel lot at Kentland Farm and students and volunteers were setting up the event. Many of the volunteers for the event had been there since well before three, bringing out tables and setting up stations. Upon arrival, guests received a “scavenger hunt” which encouraged use of all of the stations present. Those that completed the hunt were allowed to take home one of the many pumpkins lying in the grass.
The heaviest of these stations to be set up, but also arguably the star of Fall Fun Day, was the vintage cider press in the center.
Chris Youngs, a volunteer at Kentland and a Virginia Tech student in the Civic Agriculture and Food Systems minor, found this old cider press in one of Kentland Farm’s barns and spent hours with his tools putting it back together. Some of his vintage chainsaws he had also put together were also on display.
His ability to assemble these pieces of American history was a treat, and definitely added to the overall experience of the event.
Past the cider press was the food table. Among the fall-themed delicacies were pumpkin seeds, pumpkin muffins, fresh apples from the farm, and other baked goods. This table provided a place for people to come and mingle while enjoying homemade snacks. Copies of a small, handy recipe book were also given away, showcasing some of the best tastes of fall. Guests were also invited to write in chalk their favorite fall recipe.
Walking in a circle around the stations of the event, you would next come upon the “seed saving” table. On a well-decorated picnic table laid a few varieties of seeds, including Cosmo flower seeds and dill seeds. Guests were invited to make small pouches out of scotch tape and wax paper and pack them with seeds for later planting.
Next was the herb-drying table, arguably the absolute best-smelling station of the event. The aroma of all of the herbs was enough for any guest to want to take a small bundle home to hang upside down in their house to dry.
This event was placed at exactly the right time, because as the sun dropped down, the night air was just chilly enough that it was comforting to have a cup of fresh-pressed apple cider to warm up. The hot coals keeping the outdoor cooking stove running and the cider pot steaming provided a warm offering to those guests more sensitive to the cold. It also provided a place that opened up conversation among students and community members alike. Later in the evening, packs of marshmallows were opened up and guests were invited to roast them over the stove.
Before packing up for the evening, it was important to take a swing at the nut cracking station, kind of like a judge has to swing her gavel at the end of a meeting. The satisfying crunch of the nuts before retrieving a free pumpkin to take home provided just one more instance of Fall Fun that made this event at Kentland Farms exciting, festive, and even educational.
The purpose of Fall Fun Day was to bring the community together, but also succeeded in educating guests about local food in a variety of ways. The recipe book at the food table, the herb-drying lesson, the seed saving opportunity, and even the fresh apple cider all contributed to the promotion of local, sustainable agriculture… and it was just a really good time, too.