Ron and Debra George offer a variety of certified naturally grown products from Burning Oak Farm in Paris, IL, and take great pride in using organic feedstock for their pigs and chickens, grass feed for their cattle, and use only organic nutrients for their hay and elderberry products. “We practice sustainable farming for the health of land, followed by the health of ourselves, and those consuming healthy foods with no toxic chemicals, nitrates, hormones, antibiotics, or synthetic ingredients,” said Ron George, owner of Burning Oak Farm. Despite not using any chemicals and using sustainable agricultural practices, they have created delicious, pure products. With years of study and practice, Ron has found that they can build a sustainable and practical operation that is profitable, good for the environment, and healthy for consumers (though it takes a bit more labor).
When Ron was first asked to participate in the Artisan Cup & Fork by The Land Connection Board of Directors member and Founder of the Artisan Cup and Fork, Walter Musumeci, he was “humbled” to participate. For Burning Oak Farm, it provides them with an opportunity to gain exposure to a new group of consumers who may not identify with the type of production they employ. “We are trying to build a brand and be recognized in the marketplace. Organic/nonGMO and Heritage breeds have a unique flavor profile, and we think new people may appreciate the taste and texture of our products.” I can attest – their products are delicious. Until I purchased bacon from Burning Oak Farm, I had never had bacon that was uncured and natural. It tastes completly different from the salty bacon you purchase at the grocery store – it really tastes like meat! The quality of his products will shine through in the competition, but the event is truly an opportunity to preview products from farmers throughout the region.In the Artisan Cup and Fork, Burning Oak Farm is paired with Chef Drew Starkey at Bacaro restaurant in Champaign, IL and PrairiErth Farm in Bloomington, IL for their competition team. They will also be paired with a brewer or cider maker to compliment the created dish. “Our team is very diverse and will bring the best of what each of us does to the table,” said Ron when asked about what he thought that his team would bring to the competition. He also felt that “Chef Starkey’s talents blending Southern Illinois foods and beverages to an audience that may have never been exposed to (Burning Oak Farm’s) distinctive products.” is what will truly set their dish apart from all the rest.
But this culinary competition isn’t just about tasting good food for just one night. The Artisan Cup & Fork is an important step in meeting the farmers that create locally produced, delicious food and meet the chefs that support these farmers, creating unique, locally-grown creations. We need to support our farmers beyond just a one-time event. Ron raised an important point for all of us to remember when buying local. He reminds us be open to flavor and quality, rather than the price. “People can support us and others like us by not being price sensitive that leads to rejection. Rather, try our products, meat and poultry, enjoy the unique & satisfying flavors, and soon realize that our products are more satisfying to consume and require less to meet your nutritional needs.” Well said, Ron. From someone that was never exposed to locally grown foods in the suburbs of Chicago, I couldn’t agree more.Downstate Illinois’ premiere food competition will debut on October 23, 2016 from 6-9pm at the City Center in Champaign, Illinois, highlighting eight chef teams with sixteen farmers from downstate Illinois. There will be one winning team, but you have to attend to help us uncover the champion. Register now for the event at http://artisancup.com/ – there’s even a VIP hour with specialty cocktails and food previews! And remember, the event not only helps support our local farmers, but The Land Connection too – providing training to farmers who are interested in operating their farms in a sustainable manner, leaning on farmers like Burning Oak Farm for their expertise and help training others. We look forward to seeing you there – come hungry and ready to explore!