Dozens of local restaurants and breweries brought the heat Sunday at the sixth annual PepperFest.
Each establishment crafted their own dish for attendees using locally grown peppers.
The festival, held at Boulder Park in Briar Chapel, was sponsored by the Abundance Foundation, a nonprofit focused on outreach through sustainable agriculture.
“We are dedicated to preserving the local food shed through events and education,” said Beth Turner, a volunteer at the festival and a Pittsboro town commissioner.
Through their efforts, the foundation has touched farmers that are as vibrant and diverse as the peppers they promote.
“We get peppers that are specifically bred for this region, and we work with the chefs and some actually end up going local after the festival,” said Tami Schwerin, executive director of the Abundance Foundation.
One of the contributors of these locally created peppers is the Piedmont Biofarm, which is a sustainable vegetable farm specializing in growing a wide array of peppers.
“We’re creating whole new varieties of peppers that have never existed before,” said Doug Jones, a Piedmont Biofarm farmer.
Jones, who’s known as Dr. Pepper, said he has been growing his specialty peppers for 10 years and has been an integral part in the creation of the festival.
“We’re founders of the festival, along with Abundance Foundation, and it actually began as a tasting event,” said Jones.
Jones uses the tasting aspect of the festival to gauge public approval and interest — and he uses the information to create superior tasting peppers.
“Our goal is to get more peppers consumed and promote sweet — not hot — peppers, so people will eat a larger amount in their daily diet,” said Jones.
Along with the panoply of peppers, the underlying mission of the festival has shifted to one of sustainable living.
“We have brought a lot of positive exposure to Pittsboro and the local farmers there as well,” Turner said.
The local turnout at this year’s festival was the biggest in its history — and organizers have taken notice.
And residents are also catching on and are appreciative of the festival’s approach towards helping Piedmont farmers.
“I think that they’ve done a great job promoting local businesses and farms,” said Ann Johnston, a festival attendee and Chapel Hill resident.
After the pepper king and queen had been crowned and the burning mouths were quenched, regional farmers and residents gathered for pepper beer and bluegrass music.
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