Terra Vita, a sustainable food- and beverage-tasting event on tap next month in Chapel Hill, started three years ago as a one-day affair.
It was the brainchild of Colleen Minton, a Garner High School graduate who moved back to the Triangle four years ago. A former public relations professional, Minton wanted to create an event where people who prefer to eat sustainable food didnt have to worry about any item that touched their lips all the sources of the food, wine, beer and coffee were vetted beforehand.
Since that first year, Minton has transformed Terra Vita into a three-day extravaganza, including a grand tasting, a day full of workshops called the sustainable classroom, special dinners and a pair of fundraisers for local causes.
The single day was amazing enough and yet she didnt stop there, said Scott Conary, owner of Carrboro Coffee Co. and Open Eye Cafe.
Chef Adam Rose, of Il Palio restaurant in Chapel Hills Siena Hotel, added: It has grown into something pretty spectacular. ... It is one of the best food and wine events I have ever participated in.
Minton knows of no other events in the Southeast that merge sustainable food and beverage.
Terra Vita kicks off Nov. 1 with a chefs potluck dinner benefiting the Carrboro Farmers Market, whose organizers are raising funds for planned improvements to its location behind Carrboro Town Hall.
The sustainable classroom on Nov. 2 offers participants the chance to attend four of eight sessions tackling topics such as the sustainability of coffee and chocolate and a panel discussion about practical versus purist approaches to the sustainable food debate. My real passion in all of this is education, Minton said.
A dinner that evening brings together chefs from Kinston, Charlotte and Chapel Hill to cook a six-course meal.
The big event is the Nov. 3 grand tasting on Southern Villages lawn. More than 30 food artisans and chefs from across North Carolina will share samples. While the wine, beer and coffee vendors are from all over the world, the companies adhere to environmentally friendly growing and production practices.
A silent auction will raise money for the Carrboro farmers market and Table, a nonprofit hunger relief agency in Chapel Hill. Last years auction raised $6,000 for charity.
Minton, 41, drew on past experience raising money for charity when a friend suggested she organize a food event.More than a decade ago, she embarked on a 60-mile breast cancer walk, hoping to raise $5,000. The silent auction she organized in conjunction with the walk raised $36,000 for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure. When Minton and her family returned to the Triangle from Atlanta, a friend suggested she organize an event centered on local, sustainable food. Terra Vita was the result.
Chefs and food producers describe Minton as energetic, organized and motivated by a desire to support sustainable agriculture.
Minton, a project manager at Cisco Systems, isnt paid for her time organizing the event. She does the work when her children are at school or asleep. She stops watching television for the three months before the event. Its a huge commitment, but I have done it because I feel its a good experience for the people who participate, Minton said.
To hear that a chef now serves this local cheese or uses that local chocolate because they met the cheese maker or the chocolate maker at Terra Vita is all the payment she needs.