The Taste of Farmville – A Win-Win For All

Published 4:01 pm Thursday, February 14, 2013

This year the Farmville Rotary Club's annual fundraiser, The Taste of Farmville, took a bite out of hunger in more ways than one. Those who attended had an opportunity to sample a variety of food prepared by local chefs, cooks, clubs and non-profit organizations for a bargain price of $10, and the proceeds benefited both Meals on Wheels and FACES, Farmville's food pantry.

“This year we made over $7,000,” stated Jeff Smith, coordinator of the event.

This is the first year the Rotary fundraiser, now in its ninth year, had to be postponed a week due to weather.

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“For January, we've always been blessed with good weather,” Smith added. “We still did very well. Over 600 adults attended.”

The proceeds all come back to the Rotary Club that in turn donates the money to local organizations selected as the Club's signature project for that year.

“In years past we've helped other groups like STEPS,” noted Rotarian Kerby Moore. “We also provided the exercise equipment at Wilck's Lake next to the skateboard area at the Sarah Terry Trail.”

The Taste of Farmville started on a much smaller scale in 2004.

“I'd done shows like this in Lynchburg,” Smith related. “I enjoyed doing it, and I thought it would be something good to put on in Farmville.”

“We only had eight or ten cooks that first year,” Moore added. “It was the Celebrity Cook-off then – everybody was a celebrity.”

The first event, held at Fuqua School, had an attendance of about 100.

“It's come a long way,” Smith said with a smile.

In planning the event, Smith decided that late January would be an optimum time for a community-wide gathering.

“It's kind of a dead time of the year, and this brings people out after the holidays,” he said. “Having it on a Thursday night right after work takes the pressure off people.”

“Everyone seems to appreciate that this is a casual event,” added Moore. “Farmville has plenty of dress up and black tie events.”

The cooks who sign up to participate in the Taste of Farmville donate both their time and the food.

“They get to show off what they can do,” Smith said. “And the non-profits can get out and talk to people about what they do.”

As the event evolved over the past decade more members of the community helped to make it a success.

“Over the years we've had different churches to help out,” Moore noted. “The Boy Scouts have had a booth one year – it's a long list. The whole community has really helped with this.”

On a brisk January evening, people stroll from booth to booth to sample favorite foods. The casual atmosphere is more reminiscent of a summer cookout than a winter gathering. The pace is relaxed since the $10 admission ticket allows as many visits to each booth as the appetite will allow.

“We have some perennial favorites like Meals on Wheels with their chicken salad and the Ruritans and their Bananas Foster,” Smith noted. “The Woman's Club has been here every year, and they're always a big hit of the show.”

This year brought some newcomers as well, the Farmville Chamber of Commerce who teamed up with Prince Edward County schools culinary classes, The Sweet Shop opening in February on Main Street, and a new restaurant, The Fishin' Pig.

Several years ago the event moved to a larger space, STEPS.

Southside Training, Employment and Placement Services, Inc., located on Industrial Park Road in Farmville, provides job training and employment opportunities to people with disabilities

“STEPS has a very nice facility,” Smith observed. “You can have a crowd and not feel crowded.”

The event has, in fact, evolved into exactly what the organizer envisioned.

“When we started planning this Jeff said he wanted something casual, come right after work, bring the kids, it's not going to break the bank, and it's for a good cause,” Moore said. “I think Jeff's hit a home run with giving us just what the town needed. It's a laid-back event where people can come to taste different foods and have a good time.”

With $2,500 going to both Meals on Wheels and FACES this year, the Taste of Farmville will continue to provide for the community.

“I think it's appropriate for a food event to assist others who need food,” Moore said. “Averaging out what the event has made over the last nine years, that's over $50,000 we've put back into the community.”

“The Taste of Farmville is a win-win for everybody,” Moore concluded. “I think it's the best event in town.”

Judging by the increasing attendance each year, Farmville would seem to agree.

For more information on next year's Taste of Farmville, contact Jeff Smith, (434) 391-4596.