With people lined up at long tables artfully set with fresh greenery and glowing candles, the annual Saint Andrews Farm-to-Table event was held at the Mississippi Farmers Market on High Street. “I felt that would be an appropriate place to hold the dinner,” said event chair Mona Reddy. “It placed us closer to the where the farmers sell their harvest.”
The annual affair is a major fundraiser for the Saint Andrews Parents Association. “The group does so much for the school,” explained Mona. “It was important to me for the event to be a success. I have a passion for the school and I had a passion to put on a good event to showcase the school. That was my drive.”
The decision to hold the event at the Farmers Market rather than on campus wasn’t necessarily a popular one, at first. But when people arrived at the venue and walked inside, the transformation of the nondescript metal building changed their minds. “I wanted to do a jeans-friendly event, and with a temperature of 75 degrees that beautiful February evening, the setting was relaxed and comfortable for all.”
The event began with a cocktail hour that had gueststrolling through the Farmers Market and talkingto farmers who had their produce and other products on display. “I go to the Farmers Market just about every week,” explained Mona. “That’s what gave me the idea to do the Farm-to-Table event here. I like getting to know the farmers who grow the food my family eats, and having the event here put everyone in direct contact with the folks who grew the food for the dinner.”
Each year the Farm-to-Table event features a celebrity chef, and this year’s chef was Robert St. John, who owns several restaurants in Hattiesburg. “My friend, David Pharr asked if I’d do it, and it worked out for me time-wise,” said Robert. “It was a great event, first class all the way.” In the past, the dinners were more nouvelle-cuisine,with small serving sizes. Robert wanted to shake that up a bit with more generous portions.
"We had a bit of a challenge in that it was February, there’s not a lot offresh produce coming in that time of year, but we were able to come up with a menu that worked well.”
Those attending the event enjoyed a mixed green salad with roasted butternut squash, quinoa, feta cheese with a tarragon vinaigrette, family style orecchiette pasta with Mississippi Gulf Shrimp, Salad Days tomatoes and pesto; lamb osso buco with a Mississippi shitake bordelaise, Delta Blues brown rice grits, grilled asparagus and charred carrots; and white chocolate bread pudding with white chocolate raspberry sauce and raspberry coulis.
“It was fun to see parents visit with each other outside of the baseball fields or other places their kids are involved,” said Mona. “I only wish the evening could have lasted longer. There was such an energy there, with people visiting with the farmers and each other.” The event was a sell-out with 225 peoplein attendance. Mona credits her exceptional team of volunteers for the event’s success, including Suzanne Sones, Lulu Intan, Mary Catherine Blackwell, Anna Petersonand Karla McCullough.