White River State Park became a food festival unlike any other recently when the annual "Dig In" event was held.
Dig In is actually a non-profit corporation that holds the event each year. The Indiana Family of Farmers, consisting of about 20 commodity groups and farm agencies or organizations, helps provide sponsorship for the event.
Dig In buys food from local producers, then pairs up chefs from restaurants, many local but some from various parts of the state, to take the product and make an appetizing dish from it.
People who paid $40 each to attend the event walked from tent to tent, trying sample-sized portions of each creation. Some were so serious they noted in their notebooks which restaurants they liked, apparently so they could try the restaurant later. Craft beer and wines were also part of the tasting event for those of legal drinking age.
One of the farms that supplied meat for the event was Paul and Jeremy Russell from Muncie. A popular food truck took leg of lamb that Dig In purchased from the farm, and cooked it for days in a Big Green Egg brand smoker. The results were leg of lamb with the appearance, texture and taste much like country -cooked, cured ham.
The crowd tended to be people who would attend finer restaurants. After all, $40 per person requires a serious commitment to want to check out various samples in the hot sun all afternoon.
Local farmers who produced the meat or vegetables were invited to be at the tent with the chef that prepared their items.
The only disappointment heard from some of the farm families was that the people were interested in trying gourmet food, but not in listening to how the food was produced or where it came from. In fact, some were discouraged from displaying pictures they brought of their operation because the chef told them people didn't want to see where the meat came from.
Obviously, there's still an educational job to do here.