MASARYKTOWN — As visitors pull into Sweetfields Farm, long stretches of lush green landscape welcome them. Large patches of pumpkins and vegetables of every color are scattered along the fields.
Visitors to the farm Saturday evening, however, will find more than a serene spot along Benes Roush Road. They'll get to sample some of the produce from the fields and, at the same time, support a community organization that provides programs for children.
The first-time event, Taste of the Fields, is a benefit sunset-to-starlight dinner — made with locally grown foods.
Guests will dine outdoors at Sweetfields Farm. Strong Tower Vineyard and Winery will provide a taste of locally produced wine to add to the experience.
Almost every dish on the menu contains something grown in Hernando or surrounding counties.
The zucchini quiche appetizer, for example, will be made with local farm-fresh eggs and zucchini. The farm fresh vegetable offering will be entirely local, with green beans, mushrooms and bacon all from the community.
Some dishes, such as the roasted apples, have items not grown here, but they will be drizzled with locally grown honey.
With five courses, including dishes such as herb roasted chicken and peppercorn encrusted pork loin, guests will sample from a diverse and taste-inspiring menu. Hosts and farm owners Ted and Lisa Kessel welcome the relaxing evening under the stars.
"All of the five senses will be treated," Lisa Kessel said. "Guests will smell the fresh air and the food cooking, and they will hear the chickens as they eat."
The evening will begin with a tour of the farm, including a sneak peek at the farm's annual corn maze, and a hayride, followed by appetizers. Education about locally produced foods will accompany the main course of the dinner.
As guests dine on courses prepared by professional chef Amy Wilson and Chef Audrey's Fresh Market Cafe in Brooksville, they will be able to participate in a dialogue about the history and importance of locally grown food and sustainability.
"It's a community circle," Kessel said. "Everyone is holding hands in it."
So whose hands will benefit from the Taste of the Fields dinner?
Proceeds from the event will go to the Kiwanis Club of the Brooksville Ridge to support youth programs. The club is sponsoring the dinner, along with the Chamber of Commerce Leadership Hernando Alumni Program.
"We wanted to find a signature event for our club," said event co-director David Mickelson.
The dinner will be set up "home style," meaning participants will take portions from large trays in the middle of the table and fill their plates alongside one another.
Familiar with community building, the Kessels encourage guests to bring their own plates as conversation pieces.
"We started (the farm) three years ago, and we grow completely by organic methods," Kessel said. "The purpose is to bring young families together and learn about their food and where it comes from."
In the cool shade, there is a wooden tree swing visible in the distance. The Kessels say it is the simple things in life that bring the most joy. Since they started Sweetfields Farm, they said, they have focused on growing and selling organic vegetables and finding ways to share their values with the community.
The Kessels are always busy on the farm, from hosting school field trips, to educating the community about local farming, to planting and growing their corn and sunflower mazes for children and adults to get lost in.
They see Taste of the Fields as an opportunity to encourage togetherness, educate consumers about the importance of local food and family farms, and give visitors a peek into their everyday endeavors.