Sunday, October 2, 2011

Chipotle Cultivate Festival

As if I didn't already love Chipotle, I love them even more after the great festival that was put on in Lincoln Park this Saturday!  
I loved the design for all of the signs and displays!
Chipotle Cultivate is "a festival celebrating food, ideas, and music, that brings together farmers, chefs, thought leaders, artists, musicians, and participants like you, on a journey toward a world of more sustainable, wholesome, and delicious food."  The idea behind the festival was right up my alley and it truly did not disappoint.  
I have been seeing posters for it around the city and initially though I wouldn't be able to make it because of work, but my schedule changed last minute and I was able to attend for a little over an hour.  
I got up early Saturday morning to run seven miles by the lakeshore.  As I finished my run I ended by the farmer's market and Cultivate was being set up nearby, which is a great location in Lincoln Park.  The festival didn't start until 11am so I headed back home to change and get everything ready for the day.  I finally made it back to Lincoln Park and headed straight into the festival.  I only had a limited amount of time so I tried my best to check out as many things as I could.
Entry was free and everyone received a pamphlet when entering.  The festival was a good spread of booths and tents with various foods and activities.  I had read up on the event before coming so I knew that if I visited four of the five experience tents and got a stamp I could earn a free meal at Chipotle.  I thought this was a really smart way for Chipotle to get their message out to people because you learned something at each tent before getting a free meal.  
I first stopped by the Cinema Tent where there was a video playing featuring Steve Ells, Chipotle Founder and Co-CEO, talking about how and why he started Chipotle and the food philosophy of the resturant.  Besides making delicious food, Chipotle's food practices and beliefs are a big reason of why I enjoy eating there.  

That's Richard Blais!
I then walked by one of the two Chef's Tents where big name chefs were doing demonstrations.  While walking by I saw Richard Blais, from Top Chef, pass by - he was one of my favorites so it was pretty cool to see him in person!  He had a demonstration later on that afternoon.  

There was also a wonderful Artisan's Tent that was full of local vendors selling their food and products.  I stopped by the Family Farmed booth and picked up some good information about CSA's in the Chicago area. 

In the middle of the festival there was big stage where bands played throughout the event.

The next experience tent was Textiles where Loomstate Organic was set up.  They make all of the Chipotle workers uniform.  I listened to someone tell a group of us how the cotton they use is farmed and then produced into shirts using socially and environmentally friendly methods.  They were also selling some shirts for the event. 

Some of cool shirts and totes they were selling.
The Animals Tent was nearby so I walked over.  This tent was a little sad because the volunteers talked to us about commercial pig farming.  I knew some of the information already, that the conditions are horrible and the pigs are not treated well, but they had some of the tiny gestation and farrowing pens that sows are put in for months at a time.  I won't go into all the details, but it is really horrible.  These pens are banned in the EU and in a few states, but many commercial pig farming is done using them.  
Factory Farming
One of the gestation pens.
It wasn't all sad though they did tell us about how some farmers are allowing pigs to live like pigs should, out in the open, allowing them to be social with other pigs, and giving them the opportunity to explore and just be pigs.  Some local pig farmers were at also there to discuss how their farms work and why they choose natural farming.  
Natural Farming

The final experience tent I visited was Food Facts.  It was essentially a huge cube that was full of information about what Chipotle uses and does with their food and some comparison with national food statistics.  They are about making "food with integrity" and respecting the earth.  Chipotle's goal in 2011 is to serve 10 million pounds of locally grown produce!  They exceeded their goal last year of serving over 5 million pounds!  Check out the pictures to learn some more interesting and eye opening facts. 

I was pretty hungry from my run so I decided to try one of the special meals that Chipotle chefs came up with for the event.  There were tostadas, tacos, and chili to choose from.  I went with the Carnitas Tostadas which were incredibly delicious and made with local ingredients!  

I checked out the really cool kids center as well: Organic Valley was there giving out free chocolate, vanilla, strawberry and plain milk with cheese sticks,  there were t-shirts available for the kids to design using stencils and paints, a giant chalkboard, and a free pot and seeds for growing your own tomato plant.  

Of course I couldn't leave without getting an awesome coupon for a free meal at Chipotle so I stopped by the Reward Tent to pick it up.  

Everyone who put together and worked this festival did such an amazing job and I had a great time!  I so wish I could have stayed longer to try some different foods, watch chef demos and learn some more information.  I love that Chipotle had a whole festival about sustainable living that was entertaining and informative. 

I think this information is important for all consumers to know.   Yes, it costs more money to get organic, natural foods and meats, but I think it is worth the price for the environment, animals, and yourself.  It's all about knowing where your food comes from and how it is produced.  There are some really good books, films, and organizations all about this idea (Food Inc, Mark Bittman has some good articles in the NY Times, anything by Michael Pollan, Slow Food, etc).  Supporting local farms, farmers, restaurants, and businesses that share this kind of food philosophy is important to me and something I look for and try to do.  The Cultivate Festival did a great job of getting some of this information out to those who may not have been aware.  It was the first time they have done this and hope they put together more!   

Would you attend Cultivate Festival if it was near to you?  What books or films have you read or seen that talk about these ideas?  What steps do you take to make a more sustainable world?