Story by Summer Miller – Photos by Allison Bickel
Caitlin Argotsinger knew she wanted good food at her wedding—ethically good food—and Ellen Walsh- Rosmann was just the woman to make that happen.
Through Farmtable Procurement, Ellen has relationships with local and regional growers, knowledge of the regional growing season and event-planning experience. She works with the client and his or her caterer or chef to determine the menu and specific region from which the client wants to source food. Once a basic menu is determined, Ellen finds the products and works directly with the producers to have them ready for the big day.
Ellen, a green-eyed Iowa girl, has a degree in nonprofit agriculture, and is married into one of the most established and widely respected organic farming families in Iowa. Owning and operating local food-sourcing business Farmtable Procurement seems to be her destiny.
When she took the time to source food for her own wedding, Ellen knew she wouldn’t be the only one who would find value in local food for big events.“I think it’s the missing link between consumers and farms. Consumers can go to a restaurant and get local food, but those chefs have to be really passionate about local food to find it and bring it to them,” she explained. “But what happens when there is a large amount of food being eaten like at a wedding or a conference? Why shouldn’t you be able to get it in those circumstances?”
Caitlin feels the same way. When a chance meeting connected Ellen and Caitlin’s mom, Caitlin knew that her dream wedding was within reach.
Blake Argotsinger and Caitlin were married this past September in their home state of Iowa. Just as they had envisioned, the food took center stage. Tables at the reception overflowed with clusters of deep-purple grapes from Von Weihe Farms in Carson, Iowa and Prairie Breeze cheese from an award-winning creamery in Milton, Iowa. Little cards describing the farms and towns where the pork, tomatoes and cucumbers were cultivated further enhanced the educational eating opportunity that the bride and groom hoped to provide.
Giving their friends and family not only access to good food, but couple’s pre-vow experiences. They both attended the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, but didn’t meet until a study-abroad trip took them to Oviedo, Spain in 2008. What began as a friendship slowly percolated into a love for each other and global expeditions together.
An extended stay in Nicaragua inspired the Iowa-born twentysomethings’ passion for small growers and local organic food. “We were introduced to a whole spectrum of the importance of local, organic and sustainable foods. And not only the benefits toward communities, but also the health benefits,” Caitlin said. “That really got us hooked. Once we felt like we had educated ourselves on the matter, what we ate became more important.”
Caitlin and Blake returned to the States to finish their college education, which also included a yearlong stay in Spain, where Blake eventually proposed. Almost immediately upon announcing their engagement to friends and family, the conversation turned to food. They wanted the food served at their wedding to be about more than just serving guests dinner. It was an opportunity to share their local food story, and to provide a new experience for people who may not otherwise be exposed to local food and support growers from their home state.
“Ellen was wonderful,” Caitlin said during a phone interview from her home in Washington. “She provided us with the opportunity to source the food we wanted to have for our wedding. We had this notion of serving local, organic food. We thought it was going to be ridiculously expensive and difficult to track down. But Ellen showed us that it was affordable and that she could get almost every single thing that we wanted.”
The very nature of the farming business provides challenges that are welcomed by Ellen. Each season brings with it different food flavors, and each event provides “unplowed” territory to connect those who are passionate about local food with those who know local only as a buzzword.
“It all just worked so well,” Caitlin said. “I can’t believe how flawless everything was. We didn’t have to worry about anything. She just took care of it, and she gave us prices along the way so we were never surprised by anything.”
About Farmtable Procurement Owner: Ellen Walsh-Rosmann Specializes in local food-sourcing for events. Charges per locally sourced item, in addition to consulting and transportation fees. Facebook.com/FarmtableProcurement, 712.579.1933 Summer Miller is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in Every Day with Rachael Ray, AAA Living, The Reader and more websites than room to note. She lives with her husband and two children in Elkhorn, Nebraska, where she spends most of her time thinking and writing about food. As of late, she has been traveling the forgotten plains of Iowa and Nebraska writing her first book, which is, of course, all about food and those who love it.