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This article was published 10/9/2014 (2363 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It so happens that 2014 is both the International Year of the Family Farm and the Year of Music in Manitoba. Where better to celebrate both events than at the Harvest Moon Festival, an annual celebration of local food and local music?

"It's an auspicious year for us," says Molly McCracken, the co-chairwoman of the festival organizing committee.

Held in the tiny village of Clearwater, located about 200 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg, Harvest Moon is now in its 13th year. The festival -- a "glorified picnic"-turned-rite of fall -- has grown up alongside the right-to-food movement, its attendance steadily growing as more and more Manitobans are becoming more concerned about the provenance of the food on their plates.

The festival is the main fundraiser for the Harvest Moon Society, a volunteer-run organization that promotes sustainable living and secure farming practices, working under the motto "Healthy Land, Healthy Community." The Harvest Moon Festival allows folks to put those principles into practice.

"What sets us apart is that we have that focus on workshops and environmental sustainability," McCracken says. "Festivals provide a unique opportunity to try out new ideas. We've built this community around food security. (Festival-goers) can make connections with farmers and try new food. That's how people change their ideas about food."

Festival co-chairwoman Molly McCracken


Festival co-chairwoman Molly McCracken

Education and awareness are important pillars of the event. This year's roster of hands-on workshops includes everything from a handy how-to on transforming the humble acorn -- Manitoba's most abundant nut -- into food and medicine, to tutorials on growing winter greens and making corn-husk dolls.

Dr. Ian Mauro, a renowned filmmaker who recently joined the University of Winnipeg's faculty, will be showcasing the films he made on a recent national tour with David Suzuki as part of Right to a Healthy Environment, a multimedia workshop focused on the economic and environmental effects of climate change. Liz Shearer will share information on the David Suzuki Foundation's Blue Dot Tour, which aims to galvanize Canadians to stand up for their right to healthy food, clean water and fresh air. The tour stops at Winnipeg's Burton Cummings Theatre on Oct. 24.

Festival-goers -- or Mooners, as they are affectionately dubbed -- will also have the chance to support local artisans at Saturday's Fair Trade Fair. Vendors will be selling locally handcrafted as well as fairly produced imported products such as jewelry, soaps, clothing, aromatherapy products, art, teas, coffee and more. On Sunday, the Farmers' Market will feature farm-fresh honey, vegetables, garlic, jams, jellies, pickles and other goods. A variety of food venders -- including Organic Planet, Eat On Samosa and Billabong, to name a few -- will also be on site. (Mooners are encouraged to BYOP: "bring your own plate.")

Harvest Moon is also a music festival. This year's lineup features Royal Canoe, DJ Co-op & DJ Hunnicutt, Ridley Bent, Peggers Banquet, Del Barber, Heartbeat City, Les Jupes, Shotgun Jimmie, JD & the Sunshine Band, Yes We Mystic, French Press, Human Music, SC Mira, Naysa, SMRT, Kipp Kocay and his Band, Slow Spirit, the Reverend Rambler, Well Sister, Jess Reimer and more.

McCracken attributes the longevity of Harvest Moon to the host town of Clearwater, as well as to the quality of the programming. But there's also just something inherently magical about Harvest Moon, she says. It's a chance for rural and urban folks to break bread, enjoy great music and reconnect with the earth.

"People feel disconnected sometimes," she says. "It's so refreshing to sit around a campfire and share ideas and listen to music."


Jen Zoratti

Jen Zoratti

Jen Zoratti is a Winnipeg Free Press columnist and co-host of the paper's local culture podcast, Bury the Lede.

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