The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Local-food movement comes to weddings, in restaurants, resorts or on farms

  • Print

Robert Pollock started hosting weddings at his Buttermilk Falls Inn and Spa as a fluke. He bought a 1764 house on about 100 acres in the Hudson Valley, north of New York City, and one of the guys he hired to do work on the property needed a place for a wedding, so Pollock agreed.

"Of course it poured rain but we got through it," he recalled.

Pollock accidentally became part of a trend — couples planning weddings with locally sourced menus and taking place at farms.

In Chicago, Paul Larson is a farm-to-table chef in the truest sense; he's both executive chef at Blue Plate caterers and owner of a farm in Cassopolis, Mich., where he grows microgreens and heirloom tomatoes.

"When I moved out to Michigan, they all laughed at me because I was a city boy wanting to be a farmer," Larson said. Now, with the growing popularity of locavore dining, he finds it an advantage to offer catering clients produce he's grown, or the meat and dairy of his neighbours.

Because wedding clients tend to book far in advance, Larson can order seeds and grow an item to order. He grew butternut squash and leeks specifically for one menu last year, for example.

Larson estimates that most of the couples booking Blue Plate for weddings are interested in food issues on some level, from dabblers to those serious about sourcing the entire meal from small farms within a 100-mile radius, donating leftovers, recycling wine corks and the like.

Blue Plate tries to accommodate couples wherever they are on that spectrum, Larson said. That means communicating clearly about a couple's priorities and about what's in season, and accepting the need to adapt if a particular item comes in early or late.

Jane Eckert, who consults with farms on tourism as owner of Eckert AgriMarketing, in St. Louis, Mo., has seen an increase in farms wanting to host weddings but says "it's the brides who are driving it."

"Brides are looking for unique destinations and farmers are looking for ways to supplement their income," she said.

Weddings are still a niche business for farms, Eckert said; pumpkin patches, hay rides, apple picking and corn mazes are more popular.

But once a farmer has invested in the infrastructure to make visitors comfortable, such as putting in bathrooms and a big parking lot, weddings can be a logical next step.

"This appeals to the next generation (of farmers) that's coming in. They have an opportunity to build a new business on the farm," Eckert said. "It takes the right personality," she added, since hosting weddings means working with sometimes-demanding brides, working into the night, and dealing with the commotion of big parties.

Other examples of the locavore wedding trend around the United States include the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, Va., which uses local Rappahannock oysters, Manakintowne Farms lettuces, Dave and Dee's locally grown oyster mushrooms; and produce from the hotel's own garden on wedding menus. The hotel recently installed beehives on its roof and plans to harvest the honey next spring.

Grande Lakes Orlando resort in Florida is preparing to open an outdoor farm and event space called Whisper Creek Farm with 7,000 square feet of fruit and vegetable gardens on the 500-acre Grande Lakes estate, which also includes The Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott hotels. Wedding guests will be encouraged to peruse the garden, and even pick and taste.

Mary Ellen Murphy, owner of Off the Beaten Path Weddings, in Napa, Calif., has been a wedding planner for about two decades. Although northern California has long been a food-focused place, she said, she sees couples increasingly interested in making good food a focus of their celebrations.

Farms appeal to couples getting married, she thinks, because so many people work indoors and are nature-deprived; it reconnects them to the earth.

"Seeing elegance out in the middle of nature brings back some fond memory of childhood and how good it felt to run around," Murphy said. "People want to bottle that feeling and give that to their guests."

She recently helped her publicist, Elana Free, plan her wedding, with a farm-like vibe that drew on Free's childhood memories of visiting her grandparents' ranch. "We would pick mulberries for hours during the summer from which my grandma would make delicious jam and pie. We gathered persimmons and walnuts, eggs from the chickens, pulled carrots from the garden, milked the goats, and even went scouting for arrowheads," Free recalled.

Free said her wedding menu featured local peaches and watermelon agua fresca at the welcome table; locally sourced chicken on the family-style, build-your-own-tacos dinner menu; locally roasted coffee at an espresso bar; local wine; and a dessert bar with family favourites made by relatives.

Buttermilk Falls, in Milton, N.Y., typically hosts about 10 weddings a year, getting some menu items from its nearby Millstone Farm — 10 acres of organic herbs, vegetables and fruits — and its restaurant, Henry's Farm to Table.

Chad Greer, who recently joined as chef, gears large-scale recipes to what's in season. At the tail end of tomato season, for instance, he liked making panzanella salad with the resort's own bread and basil. He is lobbying for an Argentinian barbecue so he can do whole local pigs.

Pollock said a wedding on the property is low key and natural.

"This is not a heels place," he said. "I tell people, don't wear your Jimmy Choos, wear your Merrills."


If you are considering a farm wedding, some tips from experts:

— Keep the food fun and familiar. You can accommodate less adventurous diners (and vegetarians) with a baked potato bar, for example.

— Plan for the season but stay flexible. If you want peaches and tomatoes on a locavore menu, that probably means July, not February. But weather conditions the year of your wedding could speed up, slow down or wipe out a particular crop.

— Prepare for outdoor conditions. Have extra wraps for cool evenings, and cheap sunglasses.

— Have a bad-weather contingency plan. If you're outside, have a backup like a tent, and if you're in a barn or other farm building, don't assume there's heat or air conditioning.

— Remember that guests might think of a wedding as dressy. Either spell out a casual dress code, or think about how you'll keep high heels and fancy dresses clean.



Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Andrew Ladd talks about his injury

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A baby Red Panda in her area at the Zoo. International Red Panda Day is Saturday September 15th and the Assiniboine Park Zoo will be celebrating in a big way! The Zoo is home to three red pandas - Rufus, Rouge and their cub who was born on June 30 of this year. The female cub has yet to be named and the Assiniboine Park Zoo is asking the community to help. September 14, 2012  BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
  • A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker hangs out on a birch tree in St. Vital. The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is considered a keystone species. Other species take advantage of the holes that the birds make in trees. A group of sapsuckers are collectively known as a

View More Gallery Photos


What do you think of the government's announcement that there will be no balanced provincial budget until 2018?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google