A Golden Day In The Mountains – A Garden Party In June

| By Kala Carol Shaffer |

One June day ten years ago, Ron and Rachel Clearfield opened their home and gardens to all for a golden garden party… with meaning and purpose. Ten years later and the annual event reaches a milestone. Catch a glimpse of this day: Imagine listening to local musicians play onstage while you walk in the gardens ripe with color. Children are joyfully playing and there are plates full of aromatic food. You head to the gazebo to get a glass of wine or beer.

Yet even as you enjoy your spectacular mountain surroundings, you know you are aiding the Food for People program. This group, founded in 2006, responded to the needs of underfed and destitute children with slim chance for education and growth because of lack of food and funds. The foundation has a clear and simple vision that provides daily, nutritious hot meals in the local cuisine for children. They help to grow and/or purchase food locally to support the economy. It hires local villagers to help run the program and consults community leaders in the design of the effort. Currently, 100,000 meals are provided daily in Bantoli, India, the first facility to open. Two other facilities are active now in Nepal and Ghana.

The Golden Garden party has been a huge success and I wanted to learn more from the hosts so I recently interviewed them.

Kala: Why did you want to be involved with Food for People? How did you decide on this approach?

The longer Rachel and I live, the more obvious it becomes that we truly are either part of the problem or part of the solution. We decided long ago that we wanted to be part of the solution. We looked into different humanitarian organizations to work with and The Prem Rawat Foundation (www.tprf.org) really stood out. They recently were awarded the highest rating by the top charity evaluator, The Charity Navigator. We were very inspired by their many ongoing programs and particularly facilities to help feed children and the aged. We felt hosting a benefit to raise money to feed people was the right one for us. Our annual benefit for Food for People is certainly one of the most rewarding things we do with our lives.

Kala: Can you share any outstanding experience from previous years? What have attendees shared with you about their experiences?

People that attend the fundraiser always tell us they had a wonderful time. The setting for the benefit really helps. We’re blessed with some absolutely beautiful land and gardens – 5 acres in Sandy Mush. Rachel, who is an avid gardener originally from the UK, has created some spectacular gardens in the true English flower-garden style. Many people have told us that the combination of the setting, the food, the music, and all the other amenities, make for time well spent with folks who are in that same spirit of wanting to help our world. One outstanding experience happened two years ago when we learned a major earthquake had hit Nepal. We decided to donate all the funds raised that summer to the relief effort. The earthquake happened just before monsoon season. This meant that people who had been driven into the streets from their homes were living, cooking, and sleeping in the rain. The $10,000 we raised that summer purchased metal roofs that could be erected over wood and rock rubble, creating safe and dry temporary homes for over 300 families. That felt good!

Kala: What can a person expect when attending the Golden Garden Party? Who will perform, and how about the food? Tell me also about the raffle and sales area.

It’s a great party and lots of fun people attend! The wonderful Kathmandu Nepali restaurant in downtown Asheville will be making sumptuous food and local pubs will be providing fine beverages. Current sponsors will include the Kathmandu restaurant, Jack of the Woods Pub, Noble Cider Company, as well as WholeFoods. We’ll have some super performers including Americana solo artist Bryan Scar, jazz-indie group Melissa Gordon Rhine and New Territory, multi-instrumental looping artists Brian and Katie Ernst, and oldies-folk/rock singer songwriters Mary Jo Finsterwalder & Dave Wendell. There will also be an art sales area with renowned local artists and a great raffle to help children.

Kala: Here’s a question directed specifically to Rachel. As a mother and grandmother, what does this mean to you as a woman?

I feel a sense of care and protection to all children on Earth. There is a lot of suffering with horrible things happening right now in places all over the world. There’s a tremendous need for action to help humanity and the planet. Without that action now, there will be no easy future for our children – maybe even greater hunger around the world and a ruined environment. Fortunately, there are many people getting together to try to solve the problems we have created. I just felt I couldn’t stand by and not want to help in some way. This is why we decided to host our annual benefit in conjunction with The Prem Rawat Foundation to raise money for the Food for People program.

Everyone is invited to come to this fun garden party! The date is Sunday, June 4, 2pm-6pm at 21 Clearwater Creek Road, Leicester, NC 28748 at the home and gardens of Ron and Rachel Clearfield (828) 688-4425. Additional information is available at the Golden Garden Party website:

Sandi Tomlin-Sutker
Written by Sandi Tomlin-Sutker