PAINT LICK — Jonathan and Andrea Combs drove about an hour from their Jackson County home to Garrard County on Saturday morning. The big attraction? A chance to learn more about herbs, composting and cheese-making.
While those topics might not get everyone to roll out on a weekend morning, the Combses are trying to learn more about how to raise their own food, and that made the debut Field to Fork Festival a prime destination.
The festival was expected to attract about 250 registrants, instructors, vendors and volunteers.
Andrea Combs attended a seminar on cheese-making while Jonathan Combs took in a 45-minute class on composting with earthworms.
"I'm doing a little gardening at home, and we're just looking for a way to do more natural gardening," Jonathan Combs said. "We hope this (festival) comes back next year and grows, and it will give us a good resource nearby."
"I just like coming out and supporting events like this," Andrea Combs said. "I really enjoyed the cheese-making workshop. I don't know if I'm ready to tackle it, but I like to dabble in different things."
The festival was the brainchild of Deborah Messenger, who owns Halcomb's Knob Farm, a 30-acre farm and bed-and-breakfast. The event was held in a 3-acre field on the farm.
Messenger got the idea for the festival last fall when she took a driving tour to see the different products raised and sold by Garrard County farms.
"I thought, 'How can we make it so that other people can enjoy this?'" Messenger said. She wanted to have a event where all the producers were in one location. In addition, registrants could attend as many as eight of 24 workshops on various topics related to gardening and homegrown food.
"This is an all-day festival where you have the opportunity to shop, you have the opportunity to eat healthy food that is locally grown, and you have the opportunity to learn how to grow some of that food or create things from it that you would not otherwise have learned," she said.
Mark Adler of Paris was the speaker at a workshop on making mead, a fermented honey beverage that the Vikings drank. Adler said the festival is timely for a couple of reasons.
"People are becoming more concerned about where their food comes from, and it seems there are more stories in the news about how this was infected with E. coli or this had salmonella. This is responsive to that," Adler said.
"It also dovetails with the notion of 'Let's keep our shopping local.' And more and more people seem to be taking that to heart, especially in these economic times," he said. "We think about our neighbors and we see them suffer, so let's keep our money in their pockets rather than sending it somewhere else."
Michele Hekeler drove two hours from Meade County to the festival. She took in the cheese-making workshop taught by Kristy Kikly of Caprini Creamery in Indiana. Hekeler said she's purchased rennet, an ingredient used in cheese-making to coagulate milk proteins, but wanted to learn more about the process.
Hekeler also attended an herb workshop taught by Pat Simpson, a member of the Nature's Thyme Herb Group that meets in Lancaster.
"I can't get my herbs to grow, so this was helpful," Hekeler said. "I'm just not pinching off my flowers. I'm letting them go to seed."
Jeff Turner of Wonder of Life Farm in Garrard County said the festival showcased small diversified farms. He sells free-range turkey and chicken, fresh eggs and homemade crafts. The farm also raises alpacas, cousins to llamas, and has their fiber processed into yarn, socks and hats.
"It gets the word out about people that are still trying to keep the farms going," Turner said.