Creating a Connection: Benton County Farm Bureau event increases awareness, celebrates agriculture

FarmToFork_BentonCounty_TwinSistersDesignThe connection between farming and Farm Bureau ought to be obvious – but for a lot of people, it is not.

Benton County Farm Bureau decided it needed to do something to raise awareness of Farm Bureau while celebrating agriculture, and the result was an event called the Farm to Fork dinner, held Sept. 13 of last year.

“Everybody just thinks we sell insurance, right?” said Meredith Cobb, Benton County education & outreach coordinator. “We just thought this would be a good way to highlight that there is something to Farm Bureau besides insurance.”

The dinner also provided an opportunity for Farm Bureau to promote local food (most of the food served at the dinner was grown and donated by local farmers), to partner with other organizations, and to raise money for a worthwhile cause, the historic Fowler Theatre.

“We thought, what would bring people together?” Cobb said. “We thought this would have a nice, broad appeal.”

And apparently they were right. The original goal, Cobb said, was to sell 50 tickets above and beyond the members of the organizing committee. But instead, they sold out: 150 people attended and $6,500 was raised for the theater. These figures far exceeded their expectations, Cobb said.

While a few “key people” received invitations by mail, Farm to Fork was promoted primarily through social media, specifically Facebook.

Several components came together to make the event a success, Cobb said, and one was using a professional designer to create the invitations, table cards and other materials. The county also used a professional caterer who created the meal using the donated products.

“The food was fabulous,” Cobb said.

Also important, Cobb said, were Benton County Farm Bureau’s partners: Benton Community Foundation, Prairie Preservation Guild (the organization that restored and maintains the theater), the Benton County Soil & Water Conservation District and Benton County Extension. In addition, they got $5,900 in sponsorships from local businesses and farming families.

So pleased was Benton County with the success of the event that it’s already deep in planning for this year’s Farm to Fork dinner, which will be Sept. 12 and will benefit the Community Food and Service Co-Op in Benton County. You can see the initial invitation on Benton County’s Facebook page.

“Everybody said they couldn’t wait until we did it again, so we’re doing it again,” Cobb said.

Photo courtesy of Twin Sisters Design.