Battle of the Growers to showcase county gems



By Jolene Perron


The county is coming together to put on the first annual Battle of the Growers event, geared towards showcasing local chefs, foods and wines in an effort to raise money for Leamington’s On Track for Success Program.

“We’ve had a relationship with the local wineries for a number of years, they support us in a variety of ways, so when our committee reached out it really wasn’t a difficult request and they were really happy to support us,” explained United Way CEO Lorraine Goddard. “Then we went to local restaurants and asked if they would be willing to donate their time to make a dish utilizing local wine and food, and honestly we have such a generous community … Everything that we are going to be presenting is all local. The local produce, the local wines, the local chefs, local talent … We’re really proud of that, that we can really highlight the county. And as a county resident, I live in Kingsville, I know how fabulous and how blessed we are to have access to all of those great things.”

The money raised at the June 16th event to will go towards the On Track for Success program, which is focused on increasing high school graduation rates and attendance at post-secondary, whether it’s college or university, or the trades, for young people who have fallen behind in school and are at risk of not graduating. The program is beginning it’s third year, and some of the students that are in the program will be attending and helping serve the food at the event.

“We have a number students who actually moved to the academic track from the general track, which means they are in line to actually be able to go to university, and these are young people who just never thought it was even possible for them to even consider going to college or university,” said Goddard. “Many of them will be the first people in their family to actually ever attend a post-secondary institution and they’re going to come back to the community and they’re going to contribute back to their neighborhoods and help build a stronger, thriving community for everyone.”

Battle of the GrowersWEB

United Way has brought together a number of local chefs, wineries and growers to support the event, and paired them together to create something uniquely special. Smashed Apple owner and chef, Bill Deslippe is excited not only to battle against county chefs, but also to spend some time with students from the On Track for Success program.

“I’ve competed the last three years in a row against the Windsor chefs and won all three events. I’m not really sure what I’m up against, but you never really know,” said Deslippe. “I’m excited for a good time, to mentor some students and to share whatever knowledge I can with young minds who are looking to become chefs. I’m also excited to be able to showcase something that grows locally here and give it some justice, and also to work with Sprucewood, a winery that I work closely with a lot. It’s fun, it’s for charity, it’s a good cause and it’s always good to get out there and meet potentially new customers and friends alike.”

Goddard explained their committee, which is affiliated with local growers, wineries and restaurants, has been working on the event for over a year. She said these kinds of events, particularly new ones, are incredibly involved. Coming up with a concept, bringing partners on board, and getting vendors organized, all while making sure it’s done right to ensure success is important. She said Pelee Island Winery, who is hosting the event, and Cooper’s Hawk Vineyard have been “instrumental” in helping United Way plan the event.

“We not only get to showcase our wines and amazing foods but also Pure Flavor Vegetables and the best part is helping out the United Way,” said Mike O’Brien, Outside Sales at Cooper’s Hawk Vineyards. “The main goal is to help the United Way in their fundraisings. But also to show people the amazing wines, food and local produce that is right in our backyard. Not only are we providing the wine we are also showcasing our Chef and The Vine’s Restaurant. So we are paired with Pure Flavor Growers, in which we will prepare a dish with local vegetables paired with our award winning wines.”

The event is nearly sold out. Goddard said Pelee Island Winery’s new event room can hold up to 250 people. For their first event, she said they are incredibly excited about how successful it’s been so far and she’s looking forward to it.

For more information on the event or to purchase tickets, visit

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