Twilight Dinners help Cultivating Community make healthy, locally produced food accessible to all.

Cultivating Community’s first Twilight Dinner at The Well at Jordan’s Farm in Cape Elizabeth was farm-chic perfection: local food creatively prepared by talented chefs for 40 guests at picnic tables beside a field of sunflowers in early evening sun.

“We’ve heard wonderful things,” said Dan Coyne of Scarborough.

“And now we’re thinking about bringing some other people next time,” added Stephanie Williams.

“I love the mix of people who come and the opportunity to learn more about the programs that Cultivating Community has developed, and to do it in an informal and engaging way in beautiful places that are connected to food,” said Bonnie Rukin, who coordinates Slow Money Maine, a network that supports local, sustainable food systems.

“If you want to be growing your own food or you want to buy the food that is best for you, we think you should be able to do that, regardless of your income or location,” said Craig Lapine, executive director of Cultivating Community. “For this dinner series, wonderful, generous guest chefs come out and demonstrate what that looks like with ingredients from local farms and local fisheries. It’s delicious, and it’s joyful to get people together and eat with the seasons and eat locally.”

“These dinners take a more celebratory approach to eating so people can have a strong sense of where their food comes from,” said Lesley Heiser, development and communications director.

The Twilight Dinners also raise money to further Cultivating Community’s missions: training farmers – including refugees and immigrants, as well as teens – and working to increase affordable access to healthy local foods.

Guest chefs Leslie Oster and Chuck White of Aurora Provisions, supported by restaurant owner Marika Kuzma Green, brought local, sustainable seafood and produce to the spotlight in a casual three-course dinner designed to complement three Allagash brews.

Alumni from Cultivating Community’s teen program helped plate and serve the feast – and were recognized for their service.

“We’re huge believers of Cultivating Community and feel we’re lucky to partner with them and further their mission,” said Celine Frueh of Allagash Brewing. This is the third year Allagash will release a Hugh Malone IPA in September with proceeds going to Cultivating Community as well as Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA).

“I grew up in the County, and this reminds me of a barbecue back home,” said Keely Sayers of Portland, at the dinner with her fiancé Matt Gillam. Their Labor Day weekend wedding reception will be catered by Aurora Provisions, and there will be sunflowers on the tables, making the evening a bit of a preview.

Three more Twilight Dinners are planned for this season. The next one is Aug. 23 with guest chefs Emmet Helrich and Nicholas Nappi of Local 188 and Joshua Craigue of Salvage Barbecue, with tastings from Bunker Brewing. More information is available at cultivatingcommunity.org.

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer based in Scarborough. She can be reached at:

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