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Benefit Auction Procurement Trends - 4 Great Ideas

by Sherry Truhlar

Whether you are a true gourmand or simply a gal who enjoys a good meal (I fall into this second category), you and your benefit auction audience will love a farm-to-table dining experience.

Earlier this month while on the train traveling back from New York to Washington, D.C., I read Amtrak’s magazine Arrive. It included a feature article discussing the farm-to-table movement. Several restaurants known for their work in this area were mentioned.

What is the farm-to-table movement?

In essence, it’s about sourcing ingredients locally. Imagine the chef’s in your town all heading to the neighborhood farmer’s market and planning their menus for the day or week around the seasonal vegetables, fruits, and meats bought at the market. It’s fresh, often organic, and seasonal.

I recently dined at one of these restaurants and wanted to give you some ideas on how you can incorporate this hot food trend into your own benefit auction event.

  1. Seek a donation from a local restaurant promoting the concept. In your auction marketing and subsequent write-ups, advertise the farm-to-table meal. Explain it - just as I’m doing for you right now. Your audience needs to understand it.
  2. Depending on where you live, some farmers are jumping on the trend and offering meals on their own farms. Ask for a backstage farm tour and two seats at the table. A quick internet search and I found farms in Illinois and Colorado offering such meals.
  3. Contact one of the several companies who are in business to organize meals “on the farm” at various farms. Companies like Outstanding in the Field (which travels around the USA), Dinners at the Farm (which focuses on Connecticut locations), or Plate and Pitchfork (which focuses on Portland, OR locations) are all working in this realm.
  4. Can’t find anything locally? It’s fun to create your own dinner.

Talk to a progressive, fun-loving farmer, or someone with a really big yard. Explain the concept. Show him pictures. Give her a vision. Then ask your local “hostess with the most-est” to coordinate a dinner. Give her ideas. Show her Web links. She could even contact local gardeners. They could each donate a dish made with their own backyard produce. Once the dinner is formed, sell tickets to the dinner at your auction for $30 each, $50 each, or whatever price point makes sense for your community.

Depending on your auction, these donations could be sold in the silent auction or the live auction.

Mmm good. You’re on your way to a FRESH and FUN new donation, and I can’t wait for your dinner invitation…

SHERRY TRUHLAR, CMP, BAS has worked as an award-winning benefit auctioneer since 2003. Her company, Red Apple Auctions LLC caters to non-profits, providing auction planners with step-by-step systems to align their creativity with the science behind what makes an auction successful. Last year, two of her clients – the Larry King Cardiac Foundation and the Washington Performing Arts Society – were included in BIZBASH magazine’s Top 100 D.C. events. Her ever-popular FREE 2008 Auction Item Guide, “What Sold Great in 2008” (listing 100+ of the top yielding and top selling items she sold in 2008) is offered as a “juicy” bonus to those signing up for her complementary Ezine. Visit for more good things.

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