Urban Acres transformed its nondescript warehouse into a fair-themed event space for its 2nd Annual Steward’s Dinner on Tuesday night. While the true focuses were the creative dishes prepared by local chefs and a much-anticipated talk by farmer Joel Salatin, the décor set the stage for a fun evening. With a face painter and a man on stilts, nothing could go wrong. A sign greeting attendees proclaimed the dinner a “No Waste Event.” Clearly, Urban Acres takes sustainability seriously. The theme ran throughout the evening with constant reminders that everything was compostable or recyclable.
The first bite of the evening came courtesy of Dude, Sweet Chocolate, and it set the tone for the assortment of amazingness I eventually consumed. One bite of the salty chocolate pretzel with honey marshmallow fluff, and I immediately signed up myself, and everyone I know, for Urban Acres. Faced with the temptation to consume only pretzels and bacon caramel popcorn, I overpowered my inner gluttony and moved on to the rest of the fair.
Waiting in line for the carnival games, which gave out food as prizes, provided a generous opportunity to learn more about Urban Acres and its farmers. Tony Austin, a sixth generation farmer, has a son who is a chef in Arlington. His son, tired of the bad apples he was receiving, introduced Austin to Urban Acres, and Austin now provides apples to Urban Acres. Austin explained the mutual benefits of Urban Acres. “Direct marketing makes farming economically feasible. And it is mutually beneficial. The consumers and chefs get good food and the farmers can survive,” said the farmer.
Joel Salatin agreed, stating at one point that “farmers are not good marketers,” making the existence of Urban Acres all the more important. Clad in a blue sports coat, khaki pants, and a blue button-down shirt, Salatin did not, at first glance, have the stereotypical look of a farmer. Shouts of “amen” from the crowd throughout his speech on the “slow integrity” food movement made him seem more like a celebrity preacher than a farmer. In some regards, that may be an accurate description. Preaching the values of a “secure, integrity food system,” Salatin highlighted four things that would make such a system work: participation, liberation, integration, and collaboration. Eschewing the microwave, Monsanto, Tyson Foods, and preservatives and pesticides, Salatin celebrated the people who participate in creating a viable, secure integrity food system. One of the biggest responses came when Salatin told the crowd, “If it’s illegal to have chickens in your house, do it anyway.” An interesting proposition, especially for my neighbors, but also reflective of the overall themes running through his speech: do what you can, locally, to make and consume real food.
Many farmers did not leave the fair empty-handed, either. Rather than receiving a stuffed animal or a frantic-eyed fish in a Ziploc baggy, Urban Acres explained, “The proceeds from the tickets will send 85 local farmers to Mr. Salatin’s local food seminar here in Dallas. We are sending farmers we work with and farmers the chefs here recommended, too.”
That’s what Dallas collaboration is all about, right?
Lindsey Beran is a D Magazine intern. In her spare time, she enjoys trying new food, exploring Dallas, and dramatically raising the average age at One Direction concerts.