BRIDGEVILLE, Del. — T.S. Smith & Sons in Bridgeville hosted a “Dinner in the Orchard” fundraiser for the Food Bank of Delaware on Thursday, Sept. 13.
Visitors paid $50 to taste locally made wines and beers, tour the orchards on a horse-drawn wagon and feast on creations made by the student chefs of The Culinary School, which is a part of the food bank.
The food bank plans a $2.6 million expansion at its Milford facility to create a full-sized industrial kitchen to house The Culinary School and a volunteer room to increase capacity for hunger relief programming in lower Delaware.
More than 265 students have graduated from The Culinary School, a culinary arts training program that prepares students for entry level jobs in the food service industry. It is a 14-week program for the unemployed or underemployed.
Organizers hope the first annual event will become a yearly affair.
“As farmers, we are all about feeding people,’ said Charlie Smith of T.S. Smith & Sons, a fourth generation farm known for its peach and apple orchards.
“This is near and dear to my heart,” Smith said. “We are helping the food bank help people who need it the most. It is a basic human need.”
Smith said planning began last winter when the food bank approached Smith & Sons with the idea. The inaugural event sold out and raised some $5,000, prompting raves about community support.
“It says a lot about the people here in southern Delaware,” Smith said. “We are so tickled to help the food bank.”
“We are thrilled with the outcome from our first-ever Dinner in the Orchard,” said Food Bank of Delaware President and CEO Patricia Beebe. “It’s a true testament to the wonderful agricultural community we have here in Delaware. The community truly stepped up to make this event happen. From the local growers to the wineries and breweries who donated, this event would not have been a success without the support of the local community.”
While not technically in the orchard, diners were within a few dozen yards of peach trees. Supporters left a four-lane highway to drive down a dusty lane, through apple and peach trees and soybean fields, to get to a pavilion made from recycled materials.
Smith bought used telephone poles for $1 and reused beams and tin sheeting to build the pavilion. Much of the sheeting was from old chicken houses.
Diners feasted on turkey with mushrooms, salmon with yogurt, cold corn and lobster salad and pasta salad, followed by decadent desserts, all while being serenaded by music from The Swing Notables. There was an emphasis on local fruits and vegetables from sustainable growers, with dishes like pumpkin soup garnished with crabmeat.
Local brewers and wineries such as Dogfish Head, 16 Mile and Pizzadili Vineyard and Winery also offered refreshments.