Dayton dishes up food and wine festival

The Heirloom Gardeners Food and Wine Weekend Sept. 20-22 will have a distinctly local flavor.

Photo by Rachel Alexander.

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DAYTON — Tami Joy Miller grew her first potatoes under the supervision of her grandfather, an Irish immigrant who taught her how to take care of vegetables.

Raised by a working single mother, Miller spent her time after school with her grandparents in Dayton, where she developed a deep love of gardening.

If you go

A complete schedule of Heirloom Gardeners Food and Wine Weekend events, as well as information for purchasing tickets, is available here.

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Tami Joy Miller shows off a ripe Old German tomato, one of the heirloom varieties she will serve at Dayton’s upcoming Heirloom Gardeners Food and Wine Weekend.

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Tami Miller, the owner of TamiJoyFarm, talks to her swine, Bonnie Flower and Penelope Pig, as her dogs look on.

“I’ve always gad my hand in the dirt, literally, for as long as I can remember,” she said.

Now, Miller is the woman behind TamiJoyFarm in Dayton, where she raises just about every vegetable known to man, as well as chickens, pigs and beef cattle in an expanded garden around her house. She sells her harvest locally through a community-supported agriculture system where customers subscribe to receive a weekly box of produce.

As a member of Dayton’s increasing local food scene, TamiJoyFarm will host the featured dinner for Dayton’s upcoming Heirloom Gardeners Food and Wine Weekend, a new event designed to showcase the food and wine producers of the area.

Heirloom Food and Wine Weekend will take place Sept. 20-22 in Dayton, and is a joint effort of the Port of Columbia, the Chamber of Commerce and the Dayton Historic Depot.

The weekend includes a range of events, including a cheese tasting at Monteillet Fromagerie, tours of several local museums and a night of live music at Mace Mead Works. TamiJoyFarm will host a tomato tasting and dinner at 4 p.m. on Sept. 21. Guests will be invited to sample a variety of locally grown heirloom tomatoes, as well as wines and mead, before being served a dinner featuring dishes made by chefs from Dayton restaurants. Miller’s own pasture-raised pork will be feature in a German sausage processed by Tucannon Meats.

“The idea is to try to showcase our local chefs, our local produce, our local wines and mead — just showcase what we’re doing here in Dayton,” said Miller.

Miller also hopes guests will come away from the event with a better knowledge of heirloom tomato varieties, which are often more flavorful than their hybrid counterparts.

“The heirlooms were a part of my childhood, because that’s what grandpa grew,” she said.

Port of Columbia manager Jennie Dickinson said she hopes to attract out-of-town visitors for the weekend, including people from Seattle and Portland who are interested in local foods.

With the Port of Columbia on track to complete an artisan food center at Blue Mountain Station this fall, Dickinson said events featuring local food will continue as a way to promote tourism and economic growth.

“To me, the whole idea is to continue to build the local food economy and interest in local foods,” she said.

A weekend package is available for visitors and includes a one-night stay in either the Weinhard Hotel or Dayton’s Best Western, as well as two tickets to Saturday’s dinner, a cheese tasting, two local museums and a live music night. Single-event tickets can also be bought, and many of the weekend’s events are free, including tours of local gardens.

Miller said she’s looking forward to bringing people together over a good meal at her farm.

“It always makes me happy when I see people together in a community, socializing and visiting over good food and wine,” she said. “I think it’s so important because we’re all so busy. When people actually slow down enough to enjoy the food and wine and company, great relationships are made.”

Rachel Alexander can be reached at rachelalexander@wwub.com or 509-526-8363.

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