Fighting Cancer with Farm to Table

For the past few years, the American Cancer Society has teamed up with Lubbers Farm to bring an incredible farm to table experience to West Michigan. This year’s sponsors included Lubbers Farm, Mercy Health, Odd Side Ales, Visser Farms, The Cheese Lady, Fresh Thyme, Spartan Nash, Field and Fire, W.W. Greenhouses, Creswick Farms, Gigi & laClede, Potter Orchards, and Sobie Meats. These local businesses have donated their time, talents, and products to make it an unforgettable evening.

Beer pairings provided by Odd Side Ales

The team of Kelli Ellis and Whitney Enge are Community Development Managers at the American Cancer Society and the creators of this beautiful dinner. Kelli and Whitney are responsible for a variety of different events that bring awareness to the work researchers are doing, the programs and services they provide, and preventative measures. They have hosted everything from 5k runs to health expos.

The West Michigan Farm to Table is a highly unique and creative event. When asked how this event became a reality, Whitney stated “Kelli and I share a love of craft beer and delicious food! We wanted to share that passion with others. We have a wonderful relationship with Mercy Health so we are extremely fortunate that Chef Bryan Nader was not only willing to help us but equally excited about delicious food and drinks! It’s an event that really takes “date night” to the next level while also giving back. Best of both worlds!” 

The best part of the event according to Whitney, the ambiance. Lubbers Family Farm is set in the most serene atmosphere. The long family style tables decorated with vintage glassware from Gigi & laClede that makes the dinner setting look like a fairy tale. There’s something indescribable about sitting on this beautiful property, that’s filled with kind people all there to support the American Cancer Society.

The Lubbers Family Farm is an appropriate setting for this event given their personal fight with cancer. In 1993, the youngest daughter of the Lubbers family was diagnosed with brain cancer. The Lubbers family did extensive research into any potential causes and discovered food supply is a crucial factor in the development of cancer. Wanting to move away from chemicals, pesticides, and processed foods, the Lubbers family began to grow their own food. Today, their daughter is happy and healthy with the help of homegrown healthy foods.

This year’s event featured eight vegetable focused courses paired with Odd Side Ales beer pairings. Chef Bryan Nader and his talented team from Mercy Health delivered several stunning dishes and helped show guests that vegetables should indeed always be the star of a meal. Not only are fresh fruits and vegetables beautiful to look at, but they contain many cancer-fighting properties such as antioxidants.

Mercy Health Culinary Team. Pictured from left to right: Henry Jones, Brittani Gabriel, Bryan Nader, Nia Jones, Lucas Hirt, Vicki Scheele, Raymond Chesbro IV, Rachel Rockwell.

The courses were presented in family style fashion, which provided a comforting atmosphere. Guests attending the event would soon turn new acquaintances into good friends as the night progressed. Every new course brought to the table started a new conversation. Bonding over each course, it was interesting to hear how everyone in attendance had different connections and memories to certain foods being served.

Chef Nader always wants to present food that is beautiful, healthy, and still full of delicious flavor. Being a vegetarian himself, this dinner showcased his passion for plant based eating. Guests were impressed with his ability to make vegetables the star of an eight-course meal.

When Chef Bryan is asked why he loves being involved with the West Michigan Farm to Table event he states “I love doing the Farm to Table event for a few reasons. First and foremost, it’s all about FOOD and honestly who doesn’t love food.  Secondly, when you are able to use ingredients that are being picked at peak of their flavor, it makes my job as a chef so much easier, because there’s very little I have to do to make the food taste great. Lastly, I love that this event supports the American Cancer Society. I lost my mom to cancer, so anytime I can help raise awareness and help support this cause I’m in.”

Chef Bryan Nader plates up the first course of the evening

Let’s take a closer look at each course. Course 1 started off as a beautiful plated salad followed by courses 2 through 7 which was served family style and passed down the length of the table. Ending the evening on a sweet note was a delicious plated warm date cake with whiskey sauce. It was evident that all the fresh produce was locally grown and was executed to perfection by Chef Bryan and his Mercy Health culinary team.

Course 1

Grilled Kale with Shallot-Yogurt Dressing
Gems with Fuyu Persimmon, Pomegranate, Crisp Garlic and Bleu Cheese Dressing
Paired with Citra Pale Ale

Grilled Kale with Shallot-Yogurt Dressing
Gems with Fuyu Persimmon, Pomegranate, Crisp Garlic and Bleu Cheese Dressing

Course 2

Mushroom Toast
Eggplant Caponata with Burrata on a Toasted Baguette
Paired with Hoplicated IPA

Eggplant Caponata with Burrata on a Toasted Baguette

Course 3

Braised Sweet Corn with Chiles, Cilantro, Feta, and Lime
Baby Radish with Black Olive and Anchovy Aioli
Paired with Bean Flicker Blonde

Course 4

Oven Roasted Parsnips with Hazelnut Picada
Roasted Beet with Avocado, Orange, Toasted Hazelnuts and Sherry Vinegar

Oven Roasted Parsnips with Hazelnut Picada
Roasted Beet with Avocado, Orange, Toasted Hazelnuts and Sherry Vinegar

Course 5

Grilled Broccolini with Garlic, Crushed Red Pepper Flakes, and Red Wine Vinegar
Pan-Roasted Baby Turnips with Chimichurri

Course 6

Charred Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Dates
Paired with Blood Orange IPA

Course 7

Ham in Hay
Paired with Lolly Catcher Hefeweizen

Ham in Hay with Charred Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Course 8

Warm Date Cake with Whiskey Sauce
Paired with Blackbeard’s Bliss

Warm Date Cake with Whiskey Sauce

Along with an eight-course meal, guests participated in a Michigan themed silent auction. Some of the items included in the auction were an Autographed Tom Izzo basketball, Al Kaline Autographed Photo, Amway Grand Plaza couples getaway, and several handmade items from crafters right here in the West Michigan community.

The Farm to Table event may be over this year, but there are always ways to help the American Cancer Society! Most importantly, you can volunteer your time. There are many programs from Road to Recovery drivers who take patients to and from their treatment, to in office volunteers to help with day to day projects, and of course, community volunteers who help with events like Relay For Life and next year’s Farm to Table!

The American Cancer Society works hard every day to help put an end to cancer in all communities. They are the largest private, not-for-profit funder of cancer research in the United States. Over 1.5 million lives have been saved in the United States over the past two decades. Here are some ways to get involved with the American Cancer Society.

You can also donate via mail to:
American Cancer Society
Farm to Table
129 Jefferson SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Visit www.cancer.org and plug in your zip code to find events in and near your community to make a donation. You can also stay up to date on events here in West Michigan by visiting their Facebook page here.

You can also call 1-800-227-2345 for more information about anything. This line is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

We can’t wait for next year’s West Michigan Farm to Table!


Jenn Fillenworth is a Food Blogger for GRNow.com and a Registered Dietitian that has a passion for local eats and sustainable food practices. You can email her feedback or insider story ideas to jenn@grnow.com