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Harvest Dinner returns: Support for local food important now more than ever

La Plata County is in full bloom during these summer and fall months.

Fruit trees are dripping along the sidewalks, gardens bursting from their boxes and the hardworking gleaners of the Good Food Collective can be seen all over harvesting extra produce for those in need. The past year and a half has been unlike any other because of the widespread impacts of the pandemic, intensifying water restrictions and ever-shifting workforce dynamics. However, one thing has remained constant throughout the uncertainty: La Plata County’s agricultural producers and restaurateurs are dedicated to feeding our community. It has never been more clear that our food producers are a strong, resilient and collaborative group who are not afraid to get creative and work hard to support our community.

Last fall, at the height of the COVID-19 crisis, Local First hosted a four week Eat Local event pairing chefs and farmers to produce gourmet takeout meals, keeping employees at work and giving community members something to look forward to. Though last year’s iteration was a creative take on our traditional Eat Local Month, Local First is pleased to once again partner with local chefs and farmers to host our beloved fall feast, the Harvest Dinner. This return to form is made possible thanks to the support of dedicated partners, including our 2021 headline sponsor, First Southwest Bank.

“First Southwest Bank is excited to be the headline sponsor of this year’s Harvest Dinner. Our partnership with Local First reflects our values and our mission to provide inclusive and equitable access to capital for entrepreneurs, small businesses, and nonprofits to grow and enrich our communities,” said Kent Curtis, CEO/President of First Southwest Bank. “We are one of only two Community Development Financial Institution banks in Colorado with 100-year-old roots supporting agricultural businesses across Southern Colorado. Through our partnership with the First Southwest Community Fund, we love being able to extend capital to locally owned food-based businesses, a vital part of our rural economies.”

This year’s event will return in-person on Sept. 25 at the Smiley Lawn. Community members are invited to join our hard-working restaurant and agricultural businesses for a delicious feast made from locally-sourced ingredients. For all those who missed the beautiful flowers, shimmering glasses and chatter of local foodies gathered together under twinkling lights, this is the perfect opportunity to reconnect with friends new and old while enjoying the best of Durango’s local food. There will be some adjustments to promote public health (including increased distance between seats and mask recommendations for unvaccinated attendees), but the heart and soul of the Harvest Dinner will be intact.

“Local First’s Harvest Dinner has always been a beautiful opportunity to showcase locally grown food through the eyes of a chef,” said Regan Briggs, culinary director and chef at the Ore House. “We see the full circle of purchasing and supporting local farms and how it creates important economic opportunities, provides immense health benefits and helps reduce the environmental impact, all while bringing the community together around the table to create lasting memories.”

In addition to Harvest Dinner, Local First will use the month of September to spotlight local restaurants that are supporting the region’s agricultural producers. Each week, there will be a select number of “spotlight specials” from restaurants in Durango. Patrons will have the opportunity to share that they ordered the spotlight special and will be entered to win a free ticket to the Harvest Dinner.

For more information about Eat Local Month and to buy Harvest Dinner tickets (which are almost sold out!), visit local-first.org/eatlocalmonth.

All proceeds of the month benefit local farmers, restaurants and Local First's efforts to promote local food purchasing through the local, independent business community.

A huge note of gratitude to the sponsors dedicated to our local food businesses – First Southwest Bank, Alpine Bank, the Smiley Building, In the Weeds, Santé and city of Durango – as well as the passionate group of restaurateurs, farmers, local food supporters and volunteers who make this event possible.

Emily Bell is managing director of Local First in Durango. Contact her at director@local-first.org.