Embrace Earth Day with a Meaningful Meal

LA FARGE, Wis., Feb. 1 /PRNewswire/ — Do you know who invented the fork? Or, how many varieties of rice exist? Can you recall an instance when you have been surprised by the persistence of nature? You may get asked one of these questions when you participate in or host an Earth Dinner — a springtime tradition cooked up by Organic Valley Family of Farms to inspire connection to our food, the earth and one another by linking it to one of the few holidays without a celebratory meal — Earth Day.

“Food is at heart of every culture’s celebrations and Earth Day deserves no less,” says Theresa Marquez, Earth Dinner founder and Marketing Executive for Organic Valley, the nation’s oldest and largest cooperative of organic farmers. “Earth Dinners are a time to pause and reflect on where our food comes from and how it is grown. Bringing awareness to what we eat imbues the experience with joy and a sense of community.”

Since its inception in 2004, Earth Dinners have been hosted ’round the world — from Anchorage, Alaska to Western Australia. Top chefs around the country put their touch on the annual dinner in restaurants in Seattle, Detroit, Portland, Ore., Raymond, Neb., Montpelier, Vt., Bozeman, Mont., Cambridge, Mass., and throughout New York. Amateur chefs and home cooks did the same thing in their living rooms, at their kitchen tables, on patios and decks, in community centers and parks, from the Spring (Vernal) Equinox on March 20th through Earth Day on April 22, gathering friends and family around tables laden with local and organic fare.

How to Host an Earth Dinner

Hosting an Earth Dinner can be the start of your own annual tradition. All you have to do is follow two elemental guidelines — local, fresh, organic food and lively conversation. Potlucks lend themselves well to Earth Dinners, so encourage guests to use local and organic ingredients in their favorite potluck creations. Take it a step further and have guests find out where the food came from and how it was grown. Hosts can lead the way with suggestions for places to shop and menu ideas. Finally, engage your guests with conversation starters focusing on food, through the use of ‘Earth Dinner Creativity Cards.’

Creativity Cards Spark Conversation

The 49-card deck of ‘Earth Dinner Creativity Cards’ was written by award- winning author Douglas Love. His playful, thoughtful collection of questions, facts and thought-provokers is divided up into four suits: Fun Facts — Did you know you have 10,000 taste buds?; Storytelling — Unearth long lost food memories such as the taste of the very first tomato you plucked from the vine; Imagination — Conjure up a food Haiku; and Inspiration — think and delve deeper into your connection to nature, hope and food. Use the delightful deck to create your own free-form dinner table game — one that kids of all ages will enjoy.

Visit www.earthdinner.org to download free samples of the Earth Dinner Creativity Cards, or to purchase a full deck for $10. Organic Valley will donate all proceeds from the sale of Earth Dinner cards to the Organic Farm Friends Foundation, a program that aims to foster a strong connection between rural organic farmers and urban communities. Peruse the Earth Dinner website for menu and recipe ideas and decor suggestions. Find out what other Earth Dinner enthusiasts have done. Then take all that information and put your own stamp of creativity on it. Make it your signature springtime entertaining event.

The Earth Dinner is supported by a broad-based coalition of organizations including Beyond Pesticides, Bioneers, Chefs Collaborative, Children’s Health Environmental Coalition, Earth Day Network, Earth Pledge, Eco Education, Ecotrust, Environmental Working Group, Heifer International, Slow Food USA, Small Planet Institute, Social Venture Network, OM Organics, The Organic Center, Organic Consumers Association, and Waterkeeper Alliance.

Organic Valley/CROPP Cooperative: Independent and Farmer-Owned

Organic Valley Family of Farms is America’s largest and oldest cooperative of organic farmers and is one of the nation’s leading organic brands. Focused on its founding mission of keeping small and mid-sized farmers farming, the cooperative produces 200 organic foods, including organic milk, soy, cheese, butter, spreads, creams, eggs, produce, and juice. Its sister brand, Organic Prairie, produces delicious organic pork, beef and poultry (www.organicprairie.com). Look for Organic Valley and Organic Prairie in leading supermarkets, natural foods stores and food cooperatives nationwide. For more information, call 1-888-444-MILK or visit www.organicvalley.coop.