Hickory – The 5th annual Eat, Drink and Be Local Festival of Catawba County will be held this year from July 14-21 and will be offering several farm tours, cooking demonstrations, beer, wine and cider tastings, special dishes offered by local restaurants and of course the Local Farm Feast. This festival was first organized in Catawba County as way to increase awareness of the foods being produced in the county and to show our support and gratitude for those hard- working farmers behind it all. It is a part of a larger initiative within the Catawba County Farm and Food Sustainability Plan, which was developed in 2013 to help preserve and enhance agriculture in the county by advancing traditional and alternative agricultural enterprises through education, economic development, farmland preservation and the development of a resilient and robust local food system. There will be daily events throughout the week with something for everyone to enjoy.

We will be starting off with Savoring Summer Flavors consisting of cooking demonstrations at our local farmers markets (Hickory at Union Square and Conover at the post office) on July 14 from 10-12pm. We will be utilizing local ingredients from the markets to show how you can make quick, delicious dishes. We will also be doing cooking demonstrations at the Hickory Market on Wednesday July 18 from 11-1pm and at the Public Health Farmers Market on Thursday, July 19. All cooking demonstrations are free of charge except for a special program this year, Cooking with Local Foods, Wednesday July 18, 5:30-6:30pm at the Hickory Soup Kitchen, learn to cook 2 Hmong dishes (an indigenous ethnic group from Vietnam and Laos) and we’ll send you home with $10 worth of locally sourced produce. Cost of the class is $10. Call 828-465-8240 to register.

We are lucky to have many restaurants in the region who have taken the step to work with farmers and offer locally sourced dishes. During Eat, Drink and Be Local week these restaurants will be offering at least one dish with over 50% local ingredients. Stayed tuned to our facebook page and Instagram for updates on featured dishes from these restaurants. Participating restaurants are, Café Rule, Food Factory, Fourk, Hatch, Highland Ave., Wood, Taste Full Beans, and Standard Oyster Company.

Three local farms will be offering tours during the week. This is a great opportunity to visit and learn from these farmers. This year we have a tour of the Hickory Greenway Harvest gardens and The CityFarm Project Aquaponics facility at the Catawba Science Center. To celebrate blueberry season, Smith Blueberry Farm will have a tour by owner Chip Smith and be open for U-pick. Crouching Hippo, one of the newest farms in the area will be open for a tour of their vegetable fields and microgreens growing facility. Catawba Farms will offer wine, beer and cider tastings with some light treats. This is also a newer farm producing wines, beer and cider from local ingredients.

The Local Farm Feast is the highlight of the week with food sourced from within 50 miles of Hickory. Music will be provided by the Bluegrass band The Neighbors and food prepared by John Duke of The Main Cellar City Club. This is good event to enjoy local food and drink, meet some farmers and others who enjoy local food. Tickets can be bought online through Eventbrite https://farmfeastedbl.eventbrite.com or call Cooperative Extension at 828-465-8240. Tickets are $30 with reservations for a table of ten also available.

July 14 Saturday 10-12pm. Savoring Summer Flavors: cooking demos at the Hickory and Conover Farmers Markets.
July 16 Monday 6:30-8pm. The Farm City Project at the Salt Block/Aquaponics. Catawba Science Center, 243 3rd Ave. NE, Hickory, 828-464-5780. Outside by the greenhouse and the gardens.
July 17 Tuesday 6:30-8pm. Farm Tour: Smiths Blueberry Farm, 7596 Greedy Hwy, Hickory, 828-302-1950.
July 18 Wednesday 11-1pm. Cooking demonstration. Downtown Hickory Farmers Market. 5:30-6:30pm Local Foods Cooking Class. $10 includes a bag of locally sourced produce to prepare your recipes at home. Hickory Soup Kitchen, 110 2nd. Pl. S.E Hickory. Call 828-465-8240 to register.
July 19 Thursday 11-1pm. Fresh, Simple and Kid Approved. Hickory Public Health Farmers Market. 3070 11th Ave. Dr. SE, Hickory.
6:30-8pm. Farm Tour: Crouching Hippo Farm, 1080 Morehead Road, Claremont. 828-464-5780.
July 20 Friday 6-8pm. Wine, Cider and Beer Tastings at Catawba Farms and Winery. Tickets $10. Eventbrite under food and drink listings. 400 Technibuilt Dr. Newton. Call 828-464-5780.
July 21 Saturday 5:30-9:30pm. Local Farm Feast Main Cellar City Club.
Tickets $30 Reservations for table of ten available. 332 1st Ave. S.W. Hickory. Eventbrite https://farmfeastedbl.eventbrite.com.

Photo: The CityFarm Project at the Salt Block