Author: Lane Selman and Heidi Noordijk, Oregon State University, Small Farms Program. Photos by Shawn Linehan

Publish Date: Fall 2020

Mark your calendars! The 2020-21 Variety Showcase + Winter Vegetable Sagra will take the form of joint virtual programming from December 2020 - March 2021, featuring TED-style talks, interactive Q&A sessions, cooking demos, and virtual field tours. This event is free and open to the public - worldwide!

Sagra program content will focus on eight winter vegetables: Celeriac, Radicchio, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Collards, Winter Squash, Garlic and Purple Sprouting Broccoli. Presentations will explore plant histories, origins and domestication; medicinal, nutritional and culinary elements of species; farm visits; cooking demonstrations; art and folklore.

Variety Showcase will be a week of virtual video presentations and Q&A sessions with plant breeders and seedkeepers, featuring seed projects focused on selecting and breeding for organic systems and culinary quality.

Outreach and promotional materials will be shared with farmers, market managers, and other directmarket outlets to spread the word to eaters and promote local sources for winter vegetables. This programming is supported by funds from the Oregon Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.

What is a sagra? In Italy, there are proud and festive celebrations of local food or drink, traditions, and community. A sagra may focus on a locally-grown ingredient or a particular dish. It is a place where you will eat well and also learn. There are 20,000 to 30,000 sagre in Italy every year, celebrating truffles, cheese, wine, chestnuts, and more.

As a part of the “Eat Winter Vegetables” project, the annual Winter Vegetable Sagra is a celebration to learn about and become enamored with winter squash, celeriac, garlic, cabbage, cauliflower, radicchio, collards and Brussels sprouts. Attendees learn about locally-grown foods and where to buy them, and how to store, prepare and cook them.

Sagra impact:

In 2019, the Winter Vegetable Sagra occurred in partnership with the Friends of Family Farmers annual Fill Your Pantry sale. The 2019 Winter Vegetable Sagra attracted over 1,000 attendees and 31 farmer vendors collectively sold more than $87,000 in locally grown/produced foods! This is about $25,000 more than the highest previous year and included more than $1300 in SNAP dollars.

What is the Variety Showcase? This is typically an inperson interactive mixer designed to build community among plant breeders, seed growers, farmers, chefs, produce distributors, retailers, food lovers, journalists, artists, food processors, brewers, nutritionists, bakers, restaurant owners and more. Attendees have the unique experience to see and taste new and indevelopment vegetable, fruit and grain cultivars; engage in conversation; share opinions; and take part in breaking down the walls between eaters and breeders. The Variety Showcase is a great opportunity for plant breeders, seed growers and/or agricultural researchers to show their work, collect opinions and use input to guide trajectories in their work. It is essentially a selection event, in itself.

Variety Showcase survey results and impact:

In February 2020, the Variety Showcase included:

  • 700 attendees
  • 40 showcase tables featuring breeding work
  • 2 special exhibits
  • 128 participating breeders, researchers & chefs

144 surveys were completed by attendees. Results showed:

80% of people attended the event for the first time. Of returning attendees, 90% used information gained at the previous Variety Showcase in their businesses.

MOTIVATION

When asked why they attend: 24% Networking 41% Education 29% Find new varieties to grow/buy 6% Provide breeders with input Other responses included good food, fun and exploration.

CONNECTION

85% met someone who plays a role in the food system they did not know before. OUTREACH 96% plan to share new knowledge with others. Responders estimated they would share knowledge with over 2,075 in person and over 258,000 through social media.

IMPACT

81% responded that new knowledge/experience gained would impact their work. When asked in what ways it would impact their work: 34% expanded networks 25% buying practices 41% informed decision-making Other responses included new collaborations and partnerships.