The chickens were roaming, the cows were grazing, and Pat Greenfield was on a scouting mission – searching out food for Saturday's Farm to Table dinner at the Lands at Hillside Farms.
"When you do farm to table, you base it on what's available," she said. "It's not as easy as it sounds. It depends on time and temperature. It depends on rain."
For example, Greenfield said, if growing conditions provide a bumper crop of carrots, you'd be able to offer a hefty portion of that particular root veggie to a great number of guests. If the growing conditions were less favorable, you might have just enough to grate a few golden shreds on top of the salads.
But, have no fear. As she searched the greenhouses and fields at The Lands last week, Greenfield spotted an abundance of potential ingredients, from the rainbow chard she plans to pair with smoked cheese in a quiche to the "tons of tomatoes" that are destined to be baked with eggplant and black olives.
Eggs from the chickens as well as milk and cream contributed by the cows at The Lands at Hillside Farms will find their way onto the menu as part of a crème brulee dessert.
And, the chicken and beef entrees will come from free-range, grass-fed animals from other area farms.
Greenfield hesitates to reveal more details about the menu for the $100-per-person dinner that benefits the "Green Guides" educational programs at the Lands.
"I want there to be some surprises," she said.
Naturally, she promises, it will all be delicious. "Everything from the farm tastes so much better than from the market."
And, the dinner helps a good cause, said Suzanne Kelly, development director at The Lands.
"Close to 4,500 students from all over Northeastern Pennsylvania came here for education last year," she said, "and 43 percent were considered ‘at risk' or had physical, mental, emotional or development challenges."
At The Lands, where animals are considered co-educators, children from the Wilkes-Barre Association for the Blind can touch and smell flowers and vegetables and pet some animals. Interns from Luzerne Intermediate Unit 18 get a chance to tend, harvest and sell vegetables on their 1.5-acre "Dream Green Farm." And children from Head Start experience all sorts of things.
"They actually partake in the milking process," Kelly said. "They feel the temperature of the milk. They learn about liters and gallons. They learn about inches and feet by measuring the cow's tail."
The dinner also will allow guests a chance to explore a recently "sculpted" area outside The Cottage that is suitable for all sorts of gatherings, from local parties to meetings of people from larger metropolitan areas who, Kelly predicts, will be excited to experience the farm. "It can accommodate up to 250 people," she said.
What: Farm to Table dinner
When: 5:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Begins with cocktails and silent auction at The Cottage on the Lands at Hillside Farms, Hillside Road, Shavertown.
More info: thelandsathillsidefarms.org