Farm Dinners

Dinner guests help prepare meals at Hearthside Suppers at Conner Prairie in Fishers. PHOTO: Conner Prairie

Farm to fork, for sure. Fresh, wholesome fare in the perfect setting.

Story by Elizabeth Granger 

The carrots need to be chopped, the butter churned, the dough kneaded. So the dinner guests don aprons and lend a hand.

It’s another Hearthside Supper at Conner Prairie in Fishers. An 1830’s meal in William Conner’s home, by candlelight. With food cooked at the fireplace.

“Everything would have been found in this area at the ‘time’ you’re having dinner,” says Conner Prairie director of public affairs Christine DeJoy.

In addition to the food, there’s conversation with costumed interpreters – who unwaveringly remain in 1836 – as well as other guests. And there are parlor games. “Guests know they’ll have a great time, but they often don’t realize just how much fun it will be,” DeJoy says.

Dinners at The Farm at Prophetstown are served in the reproduction of a 1920s Sears farmhouse April-October.
PHOTO: Laura Hale

Suppers are Wednesdays-Sundays through the middle of March. “I can’t think of anywhere else that does this like Conner Prairie does,” she adds. “This experience becomes more and more popular every year, so tickets get sold out quickly.”

It’s the same for tickets for the farm-to-table dinners at The Farm at Prophetstown near Lafayette. They sell out quickly; The Farm keeps a waiting list.

Dinners are made by local chef Lauren Reed, who is also the events
and education coordinator at The Farm. They’re served in the reproduction of a 1920s Sears farmhouse April-October. It’s furnished with genuine antiques, not reproductions – even the china. “You are literally surrounded by the ‘20s,” says Leslie Martin-Conwell, recently-retired executive director of The Farm. “People really do feel like they’re going back in time.”

Five-course meals utilize beef and pork raised at The Farm, along with vegetables from the large heirloom garden. Free heirloom seeds are available so diners can grow their own vegetables at home.

The first comment from new participants is joy at being there. A common reaction: “I got in!” And then “they can’t believe the level of the food,” Martin-Conwell says. “They can look right out the window or go into the barn to see where their food came from.”

She continues, “People who come time and time again comment on the camaraderie. You’re mixed up with people you may not have met and you get to talking. It’s amazing the number of phone numbers that get exchanged.”

There’s great anticipation of foods that are ripe at the time of the dinner. “We’re teaching them about seasonal eating,” Martin-Conwell says. “We are meeting people’s ideal standards.” The event is such a success that diners often end up volunteering to work at future dinners.

The farm-to-fork concept has always been big at Traders Point Creamery in Zionsville. It started as the state’s first organic dairy in 2003 and grew from there to include a farmstead restaurant, dairy bar, event spaces, and farm tours.

Five-course meals at the Farm at Prophetstown utilize beef and pork raised right on premises. PHOTO: Laura Hale

Seasonal chef dinners put guests in a farm setting away from the restaurant in locations not typically open to the public. Communications manager Lauren Bobbitt says the beach porch, overlooking the farm pond, is especially popular. “You can see the cows over the hill,” she says.

The chef talks about why he chose the menu items, often concentrating on what inspired him about the season. “We always prioritize local and seasonal,” Bobbitt adds.

In addition, someone representing a winery or distillery is there to talk about the meal’s cocktail or wine choices.

A huge farmhouse restaurant offers farm to fork meals at Fair Oaks Farms, the megafarm off I-65 between Lafayette and Chicago that tells the story of 21st century agriculture. Its food focus is on ingredients grown and harvested on its farms as well as additional farms in the region.

At the Queen and I bed-and- breakfast in Crawfordsville, there’s some … well, … fowl business. Guinea hens typically greet guests – owner Isaac Hook calls them “the guard dogs” because everyone in the house knows the instant a car drives onto the property. And with chickens and ducks and turkeys, all laying eggs, breakfast is about as fresh as you can get.

For more Information:

Hearthside Suppers at Conner Prairie

The Farm at Prophetstown

Traders Point Creamery

Fair Oaks Farms

Queen and I