Eagle Valley Land Trust's Farm to Fork Picnic embodies community support and coronavirus flexibility | VailDaily.com

Eagle Valley Land Trust’s Farm to Fork Picnic embodies community support and coronavirus flexibility

Each year, the Eagle Valley Land Trust’s annual Farm to Fork fundraiser promotes awareness for local conservation efforts while bringing the community together over a shared love for open spaces. And like most events this year, that plan to gather a large group of people, even outdoors, simply was not possible.

Enter the Farm to Fork Picnic. Instead of attending a gala, donors can buy a picnic basket — complete with food, drinks, utensils and a blanket to sit on, no extra assembly required — to enjoy wherever they feel comfortable. Naturally, they can take it outside to their favorite open space, or they can enjoy it from the comfort of their homes.

Volunteers assembled 281 picnic baskets, and there are still some left. EVLT will continue selling them until they’re sold out. Basket pickup is at the drive-thru station at the Edwards Field House on Aug. 27.

The picnic baskets were hand-assembled by volunteers and include everything needed for a picnic, including utensils and a blanket.
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When the coronavirus pandemic initiated event cancelations and shut-down orders, the EVLT didn’t know how they would be able to continue the event. Back in March, no one knew what August would look like. Once Eagle County gained a clearer picture, EVLT had an idea.

“We started thinking, ‘maybe 2020 is the year of the picnic.’ I think it is,” said Bergen Tjossem, deputy director of the EVLT.

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He went on to say that picnics are gaining popularity this year: with the pandemic, picnics are an easy and fun way to enjoy a meal while maintaining social distancing and minimizing contact with people outside your “pod.” He’s seen more people plan picnics this summer where they wouldn’t normally give it a second thought.

But the picnic format also allows EVLT to meet every participant at their level. Different people have different thoughts and perspectives on the pandemic, and activities that might feel comfortable to one person might seem daunting to the next, Tjossem said.

“We wanted to do something that was very flexible and could meet the needs of everyone,” he said. “People can choose how they want to engage.”

And to that choose-how-to-engage point, donors who wish to support someone who’s helped the community or them personally are able to gift a basket. Donors can purchase and pick up the basket if they would like to personally deliver it, or they can assign a recipient at checkout, and EVLT will notify them. Donors can also donate a basket if they don’t have a specific recipient in mind: they should indicate whether they’d like the basket to go to a frontline worker, a healthcare worker, a teacher, a local family or another category.

“We have seen a lot of people wanting to donate baskets to local families that have been impacted by the pandemic,” Tjossem said.

EVLT is working with various nonprofits to help distribute donated baskets, including Eagle Valley Outdoor Movement, The Community Market and the Education Foundation of Eagle County.

The baskets also include local businesses whenever and wherever possible. Food is provided by Chef Eric Berg of Vail Catering Concepts. Choose between wine or beer in your basket: wine is from Dobbes Family Estate and Wine By Joe and beer is from Bonfire Brewing.

Other sponsors who helped make this year’s event possible include: Alpine Bank, American Gypsum, Balance Point Construction, FirstBank, Piney River Ranch, Mountain Rec, Eagle Ranch Golf Club and the Vail Daily.

Beyond the fact that the Farm to Fork Picnic raises money for the nonprofit’s mission, the event brings together the community and EVLT wanted to continue supporting that, even if gathering physically is unadvisable.

“When the pandemic hit in mid-March, we said, ‘What can we do to support our community right now?’” Tjossem said. “Picnics are an underappreciated art and activity that people can and should enjoy. For us it was a way to create something positive and connect people with our mission: celebrating all the public lands we can protect locally, in partnership with our community.”

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