Bring your own lawn chair

One tweet big: Locavores cook up ultimate backyard bash

One tweet big: Locavores cook up ultimate backyard bash

Out Standing In My Backyard — a grass-roots event that will benefit the Houston Food Bank while celebrating local food producers — started with a tweet. As fast as fingers could move, it exploded into a production.

David Leftwich, an ardent supporter of the locavore movement and a regular at Saturdays’ Midtown Farmers Market and Tuesdays' Houston Farmers Market, got word that this year’s Outstanding In The Field dinner had jacked its ticket prices up to $220. A bit taken aback by the price he tweeted “Wow! $220 for OITF. That's crazy. Plus chefs still TBA. Time for OIMBY, Out Standing In My Backyard." 

“Initially I was having a laugh,” Leftwich admits. “I envisioned a potluck among friends."

Then his circle of followers tweeted back and retweeted to their followers. By the end of the day a committee had formed, a date was selected (May 23), a donation price established ($40) and a charity designated. The location of course, his backyard in the Heights.

About the $40, Brad Barber, one of the first committee members to jump on board, says, “At first we thought $22, which is 10 percent of the OITF, but then we thought we might need all that to cover our costs and we wanted to give some money to the Food Bank, so we added on $18 earmarked to go straight to the Food Bank."

So far the event has incurred no expenses.

“The response was overwhelming," Barber says. "Jason Basye from Stella Sola tweeted back asking how he could help. Revival Meats suggested Basye cook the whole mangalitsa pig it were donating. Chris Shepherd of Catalan is supplying his portable pig roaster. Van Weldon from Wood Duck Farms offered farm fresh vegetables, so did David Cater from Utility Research Garden.

After home cooks volunteered to cook the veggies, Gary Wise volunteered his commercial kitchen, Banquet Depot, and his mobile equipment for any last-minute on-site cooking. Paula Murphy of Patterson & Murphy PR donated her press release-writing services. Hugo Ortega of Hugo’s will bring a beef dish. David Buehrer of Tuscany Coffee and Plinio Sandalio of Textile will whip up desserts. Melanie Tello creative director for the Houston Zoo volunteered her energy to create the logo.

The locavores were coming.

“It is amazing how many people in our group of tweeter followers have come forward to help,” Barber says. “Look at out Twitter accounts, just add up our followers. Social media, people think it is a trivial thing. We just reached out and found out there is a high sense of community out there. I got followers I don’t even know in RL (real life) and they stepped up. Connections, pretty cool." 

Of Twitter, Barber says, “It is a local grass-roots way of networking with strength and power. Grow local, eat local — Twitter is a digital form of local communication."

Leftwich broke the news of the event to his wife, Tara Kelly, who was in Atlanta, electronically. “When I read the name I laughed because people will really be standing in our backyard," Kelly said. "We are encouraging them to bring their own chairs."

She loved the idea. “Events that celebrate local food and benefit a local charity should be accessible," Kelly said. "Especially to young people. We want everyone to realize that locally produced food is not an elitist thing."

Tickets go on sale today, a purposely-selected date because it is Earth Day. The process to make a donation to receive a ticket will be revealed on the OIMBY Facebook page at 6 p.m. Only 70 tickets will be sold. The group hopes that others will pick up on these grass-roots efforts and organize their own OIMBY events organized by and with their own circle of Twitter followers.

News_Janice Schindeler_Houston Food Bank_OIMBY_Hugo Ortega_chef_Hugo's
News_Janice Schindeler_Houston Food Bank_OIMBY_Hugo Ortega_chef_Hugo's
Chef Hugo Ortega of Hugo's Photo by Terri Fensel
News_Janice Schindeler_Houston Food Bank_OIMBY_David Cater_Utility Research Garden
David Cater of Utility Research Garden