I made an essential personal discovery in the middle of a farm field in Singhamption last weekend.  

The occasion was the fifteenth annual Farm for Change fundraiser at The New Farm. The revealing discovery was that I realized what I lost by not attending the first fourteen. 

I hope I haven’t lost you already. 

Now imagine yourself on the grounds of the innovative The New Farm, a certified organic family farm run by two self-described former “well-established City Folk” located just west of the village of Creemore. You are surrounded by fields of vegetables grown with love, a vast array of restaurant chefs in tents, portable bars, a barn set for a concert, and picnic gear everywhere. Now, you are a member of a unique community that understands the need to collaborate to help build a just, equitable, and inclusive food system in southern Ontario. This is the Farms for Change fundraiser.

Author’s note: You can read about The New Farm’s backstory in a book by Farm co-founder Brent Preston, The New Farm: Our Ten Years on the Front Lines of the Good Food Revolution. 

The New Farm is self-proclaimed not just to be a farm, and Farms for Change is not just an event. To borrow the organizer’s words, Farms for Change is an innovative partnership between The New Farm and Community Food Centres Canada (CFCC), a collaboration that has made a real difference for the past fourteen years. They directly support local communities by raising funds to provide local, organic produce to The Stop and more than 30 other Community Food Centres and good food organizations throughout Southern Ontario. 

This event is run by an army of volunteers, including a fantastic community of chefs, friends, and neighbours. Dozens of restaurants, such as Avling, Burdock, The Drake, and The Rabbit Hole, donate their team’s time and talents to serve unique creations featuring local ingredients. The libations are as good as the eating, adding to the overall excitement of the event. 

So, how did I lose by not attending in the past? 

Was it missing out on great acts such as The Strumbellas, Dwayne Gretzky, and even The Tragically Hip, which played at the current and previous events?

Was it the opportunity to support our food insecurity crisis, which is getting more urgent daily?

Was it FOMO since I have so many friends who have attended many times and raved about it being one of their favourite events of the year?

None of the above. My loss was having the opportunity to witness one of the best-run fundraising events I have ever been to. This event could teach the savviest of experiential marketers a thing or three. 

The participant journey felt seamless, as demonstrated by the messaging on the event tickets, featuring a comprehensive and wise listing of almost every detail you, a practitioner of the 5Ws, would love. You couldn’t bring your pet, although forks and knives were required kit. Cash was also necessary because there was no tap, QR code, or another 2024-ish payment opportunity. 

Upon arrival, the volunteers made the experience even smoother. A cohort of well-trained and well-intentioned volunteers enthusiastically staffed the massive field utilized as a parking lot, ensuring that cars and people alike were unscathed. The volunteer enthusiasm and efficiency continued throughout the event, from the ticket takers to porta potties helpers (yes, indeed) and garbage sorters. 

Now, at the risk of sounding like a high-strung event organizer, I was thrilled with the grounds’ layout, the event’s flow, and the alignment of the consistently branded tents. I may need to socialize more, but gazing around the setup was an event highlight. I brought up my enthusiasm with some of the people I attended with, but they needed to share my enthusiasm for the organizational details. Yes, I need to socialize more and work less. 

So, I am glad you have taken the time to listen to me as I wax on about the magic of creating a seamless experience for nine hundred attendees, many of whom are used to high-level service in hospitality. The Farms for Change event is an unintended tutorial for event professionals. 

Like everyone else, I left this event feeling inspired by how many people showed up to contribute to a critical mission and hopeful that at least one other person was impressed by the minds behind the evening’s planning.  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *