Organic Fun at Pesto Festo

Ferguson Farmers Market. Photo Attribution | Chris Bates | Ferguson Farmers Market on Facebook

Ferguson Farmers Market. Photo Attribution | Chris Bates | Ferguson Farmers Market on Facebook

Saturday, my husband and I attended the 2011 Pesto Festo at the The Ferguson Farmers Market.

Pesto Festo by EarthDance FARMS

Voted the best farmers market in Missouri, the Ferguson Farmers Market (Ferguson, Mo.) is a weekly summer market featuring local farm stands with conventional and organic fruits and vegetables; specialty vendors and artisans selling breads, doughnuts, wild mushrooms, and soaps; and demos from green groups and businesses such as Robinson’s Rain Barrels and GreenStrum.

Shoppers blended their own smoothies by hopping on a bike that powered a blender.

Shoppers blended their own smoothies by hopping on a bike that powered a blender. Photo Attribution | Chris Bates | Ferguson Farmers Market on Facebook

This particular day, EarthDance FARMS, an organic farm and cultural organization situated on the historic Mueller Farm in Ferguson, celebrates with the community and the other market vendors by hosting its annual Pesto Festo. Initially, Pesto Festo acted as an annual fundraiser for EarthDance FARMS. Today it’s an annual market celebration of sustainable food, arts, relationships, and music. For four hours market goers and volunteers shop produce and baked goods and collect free black-eyed Susans. To the front of the market, children and teens gawk at the farm truck, a truck bed filled with layers of gravel, dirt, and delicious looking plants, as volunteers give away packs of flower and vegetable seeds. A woman sits at the corner of a tent painting flowers and leaves on a rain barrel with an assortment of brilliant paints. A man rides a bike, its wheels powering a blender filled with fresh fruits and bright green chard.

My husband and I came this day not only to buy freshly picked produce and sample the local fare but also to compete in the day’s Pesto Cooking Contest.

As part of Pesto Festo, the Pesto Cooking Contest invites competitors to create a delicious and original pesto sauce to serve with crackers, crudites, or other treats. Traditional pestos have just a few ingredients: fresh-picked basil, olive oil, pine nuts, salt, and often garlic, blended smooth. Today, though, the pestos that lined the judging table were entirely different. A chunkier sauce with a deep reddish color tasted of sun-dried tomatoes. One entrant, or perhaps an EarthDance volunteer, brought a pesto noodle salad, bright flecks of basil standing out on the light noodles. Another, the color of mahogany, tasted of chocolate and mint. My favorite sauce, besides my own, tasted of basil, nuts, and chiles. Ours, a Hawaiian influenced pesto, joined the traditional basil and oil with nontraditional Macadamia nuts, candied pineapple, and homemade crystallized ginger.

As we waited for the judges to announce the winners, Molly Rockamann, founder of EarthDance FARMS, and a dozen other children and adults collected in the space in front of a band. Some picked up hula-hoops, a familiar sight at the market. Others picked up their feet and danced swing moves to familiar songs.

Then a staff member from EarthDance FARMS picked up a mic.

We’re very pleased to announce, she said, the winners for the Pesto Cooking Contest. Third place, the dessert pesto of chocolate and mint. Second place: ours! Our Hawaiian Pesto! A creamy Southwestern pesto took first.

I went home smiling, bags of goods in one hand, our winnings of Ferguson Farmers Market bucks in the other, and lots of new knowledge of local green projects. Can’t wait until next year.

Related Resources:

Ferguson Farmers Market

Ferguson Farmers Market on Facebook

EarthDance FARMS

EarthDance FARMS on Facebook

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