- Associated Press - Saturday, June 14, 2014

ELLISTON, Va. (AP) - Alec Bradford hoped that the 140-pound hog beneath his feet was done cooking after 16 hours of being buried underground and smothered in hot coals.

The crowd milled around as Bradford hooked a thick chain-linked rope sticking out of the ground to a tractor, and began to pull the hog from its underground oven - a technique traditionally used in Hawaiian cooking.

The hog, which was stuffed with pineapple, sour apples, garlic, watercress and a variety of spices, was perfectly cooked. The crowd applauded Bradford as if he had just completed a magic trick.

This was just one of the many food offerings at the third annual Feast in the Field, held at Leaping Water Farms in Elliston.

More than 250 people came out June 8 to Bradford’s signature festival, where locally sourced food and beverages were the theme. Two whole pigs and lambs as well as half a steer were cooked over open flames - right down the hill from where they were raised on Bradford’s farm - and then prepared by chefs from this region and beyond.

Chris Walker of Elliston came out with his family to enjoy the good food and support the local farm.

“How much better can you get than this? I can literally see where my food came from,” said Walker.

The event cost $45, and included all-you-can-eat food and beverages. Parkway Brewery, Foggy Ridge Cider, Vibrant Rioja and the Vintage Cellar included beverages in the ticket price. The band Mountain Fling provided live music, and pony rides and face painting were available for children.

Though the community came out in large numbers for the festival this year, Bradford admits it hasn’t always been that way. When he first started Leaping Waters Farm 10 years ago, the local food culture in Southwest Virginia was anything but supportive. He struggled to find local buyers and eventually drove his cattle and pork to cities like Washington, D.C., New York City and Miami just to get business.

While Bradford was attracting more big-name clients, the local food culture developed in the area to accommodate locally sourced produce. Today, shoppers can find Leaping Waters meat in several popular Roanoke and Blacksburg restaurants, such as The Inn at Virginia Tech, London Underground Pub, Lucky, Rockfish and even one of Wolfgang Puck’s Washington restaurants, The Source.

“The change is dramatic. . The community really supports us,” Bradford said.

Leaping Waters Farm stretches across 110 acres in Elliston and raises almost every type of livestock except lamb. It goes through 600 hogs per year and 200 chickens per month. Near Thanksgiving, it sells anywhere from 500 to 1,000 turkeys.

Sarah Bradford, Alec’s wife who helps run the farm with him, said the Feast in the Field event originally started as a fundraiser three years ago after big floods damaged part of their farm. They realized though that after taking the cost of organizing the event into consideration, they ended up raising only a few thousand dollars.

“We realized it wasn’t about the money,” Sarah Bradford said. “We saw all the positive connections and how the community came together. That’s what was important for us and why we do this.”

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Information from: The Roanoke Times, https://www.roanoke.com

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