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Harvest community educates residents on food, quadruples produce donations to food bank

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Kyle Martin, Staff Writer

ARGYLE — At Harvest, a master-planned community with a small farm at its heart, residents received freshly picked produce and insight into how to eat healthy on Saturday. 

Harvest, located between Argyle and Northlake, has raised gardening beds available for residents to plant and grow their own vegetables. The community also uses the plots to grow foods for donation, and according to Harvest's lifestyle manager, Page Austin, the plots have led to the equivalent of about 20,000 meals donated this year to the North Texas Food Bank. That quadruples the previous year's donations, worth about 5,000 meals. 

At the Harvest event on Saturday, more than a dozen residents — including kids and their parents — gathered to try produce grown in the garden beds amid their neighborhoods. Root vegetables and a mix of salad greens were plucked from the earth just a day before, directly from the Harvest gardens, to be used in the morning's presentation. 

Austin said she likes to plan educational as well as recreational events, and wanted Saturday's gathering to show what grows in residents' backyards. 

"People compare this neighborhood to The Truman Show, but real-life," she said, referencing the 1998 film starring Jim Carrey. "It's a really interesting community."

The morning's food was grown in part by Harvest farmer Ross DeOtte and was specially prepared by the event's chef, Paul Sottile, himself a Harvest homeowner. Sottile is a chef with Chartwells K12, a school dining services company.

Attendees were able to try homegrown beets and lettuces, put together their own overnight oatmeal and participate in the "urban spice challenge," in which kids as well as adults tried to identify household cooking spices in unlabeled cups. Residents were offered insight and perspectives from local farming and cooking experts, as well as some interesting foods.

"I think it's really neat to connect people with their food," said DeOtte, the community's residential farming expert and a Denton resident. "It's really impactful when kids come out and get to eat it directly in the garden; they're out there picking it, and then they get to try it." 

DeOtte said he enjoys being able to connect with those around him and help people who may know little about agrarian culture better understand where food comes from. Often, he said, he sees animated reactions from kids who have just tried something new. 

"Sometimes they don't like it and sometimes they're tripped out and they don't know what to think," DeOtte said. 

And that's why introducing and familiarizing kids and their families to interesting, healthy foods is so important, according to Sottile, whose fingers were stained beet red from preparing the morning's courses.  

"As a chef, I'm really passionate about food and good ingredients and supporting local farmers and growers," Sottile said.