A new kind of Lancaster restaurant week is officially underway, with a countywide (versus downtown) focus. The inaugural Lancaster County Restaurant Week kicked off Monday. It follows Lancaster City Restaurant Week and Lancaster Vegan Restaurant Week, both of which took place in September.
Hosted by the tourism marketing agency Discover Lancaster, the weeklong campaign aims to spread the word about – and raise money for – Lancaster Farmland Trust. Established in the 1980s as a non-governmental complement to the Lancaster County Agricultural Preserve Board, Lancaster Farmland Trust works expressly to protect Lancaster farmland from non-agricultural development. The organization has been in the middle of a $7.5 million capital campaign to address a four-year backlog of preservation-minded farms. (Last year, The Steinman Foundation pledged a $2 million matching grant. The Steinman Foundation is a local, independent family foundation funded by the companies that make up Steinman Communications; those companies include LNP Media Group, publisher of LNP|LancasterOnline.)
“We wanted to come up with a restaurant week that focuses on the farms that provide for them,” said Discover Lancaster president Ed Harris. Many of the 26 participating restaurants – including Speckled Hen, Lititz Springs Inn & Spa, Commonwealth Kitchen & Café and Café 1832 – source their menus from neighboring farms. Proceeds will come from a $50 restaurant sign-up fee as well as additional optional fundraising through menu specials and discounts, said Harris.
But restaurant week is not just about the money, Harris said. It’s about creating awareness of what’s at stake.
That awareness, said Jeff Swinehart, Lancaster Farmland Trust’s chief operating officer, is a key ingredient of the future of Lancaster farmland.
“If you were born and raised in Lancaster County, like I was, you may appreciate the beautiful landscape and access to local food, but it’s also home,” said Swinehart. “We might take it for granted. But really, Lancaster isn’t like every other place; it’s unique and special.
“You can jump in the car and go in any direction, and in 10 or 15 minutes, you can be at a local farmstand. That’s pretty special. We gotta make sure that these farms remain here, not just for locals but for the region.”
With the restaurant week, Swinehart hopes that “the consumer who is enjoying a meal out this week at a participating restaurant sees the LFT placard on the table and there’s a lightbulb connection. Maybe they’ll ask, ‘What would it mean for me and my family if local farms were no longer here?’ ”
Lancaster County Restaurant Week continues until Oct. 31. For details, visit lancastercountyrestaurantweek.com.
On Instagram, Discover Lancaster is inviting diners to upload photos with the hashtag #lancfarmtotable, along with an option to enter a giveaway. Two randomly picked photos will win a $100 gift card to Decades (438 N. Queen St.) or Fox Meadows Creamery in Ephrata.