GTPulse Weekend Planner: Harvest at Home


Six months ago, when I first began to see events and fundraisers pivoting their offerings from in-person to online, I wondered how the community would adjust to this new virtual world. Many organizations stumbled, at first, trying to understand how best to utilize Zoom and other platforms without losing the attention of their attendees. Other organizations quickly mastered this skill. Last week, for example, I watched an amazing live production of The Alphabet Experience from Parallel 45 Theatre.  The National Writer’s Series has managed to bring their in depth live interviews with authors to the virtual screen. And, earlier this spring, the Michigan Legacy Art Park produced a variety show—Birds & Words—featuring story telling, readings, music and even a guided bird-watching hike through the park.

From a distance, transitioning a physical event to a virtual platform might seem easy to accomplish. After all, it’s the in-person events that consume hours of planning, not to mention the physical demands of setting up, creating an ambiance that portrays the purpose of the event and, of course, the dreaded tear down and clean up. But, any Event Coordinator will tell you that creating a virtual event is a mentally taxing feat; one that forces planners to think about things that would normally not require consideration. Things like the attention span of online viewers, smooth transitions between speakers and topics, and even creating energy without the ability to “feed” from the energy of a live audience.

Miriam Owsley knows a thing or two about the difficulties of event planning. As the Volunteer and Event Coordinator for the Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities, Miriam and her team have curated one of the most beloved fund-and-friend raising events in Northern Michigan. Traditionally, Harvest at the Commons was one of the largest, 100%  locally sourced farm-to-table sit down dinners in the Midwest.


Each year, on the second Saturday in October, volunteers erect a large tent on the front lawn of the Grand Traverse Commons to create a magical experience highlighting the harvest of local farmers. The crisp autumn air was filled with music, laughter and the excitement of celebration. Attendees left the lawn with full bellies, rosy cheeks and a promise to return the following autumn.

“For the first couple months of the pandemic,” Miriam recalls, “when we were realizing that we just cannot have this event, it was a period of mourning—it’s kind of a loss to lose that beautiful community connection and the energy of having all of those people under the tent.”

Soon, however, the brainstorming began to plan an online event that would attempt to capture the sprit of Harvest. “We really tried to take the main highlights of the event and bring that energy to you at home. That’s the food, the connection to Groundwork and the music,” said Miriam.

Appropriately, food will kick-off the event with a live cooking show starring Chef Loghan Call, founder of Planted Cuisine. Attendees can purchase a Harvest Farm Box that has all of the ingredients needed to make the meals.


Step-by-step instructions and cooking demos will guide you through preparing your Harvest meal.

Following the cooking show, at 7 p.m. Miriam and Hans Voss, Executive Director of Groundwork, will host a fun and lively variety show that features segments, videos and guests Zooming in.

Miriam promises the spirit of the live event will be captured, even from a distance. “It’s going to be really fun and high energy, just like it would be at the live in-person event,” said Miriam.

Finally, from 8 to 9 p.m., musician Joshua Davis will perform live. “We’re really excited that Josh is our musical entertainment for the evening.  And, once the musical component ends, and the live stream ends, we’re all going to come down and feel that good community vibe that we would feel at the in-person event,” said Miriam.


Although traditionally a ticketed event, Miriam says it was important to offer admission at no cost. “There is no cost to attend, we just ask that you register. You can purchase the Farm Box, and support Groundwork by purchasing 50/50 raffle tickets or bidding on silent auction items.”

The silent auction kicks off on October 3 with a variety of products, services and experiences to choose from, with all proceeds going to support the mission of Groundwork.

As we transition into yet another season of social distancing, it’s comforting to know that there are many determined humans, like Miriam Owsley, hard at work to provide us a sense community and normalcy, even in an abnormal way.


Mark your calendars and register for Harvest at Home! Saturday, October 10 beginning at 6pm.

More information about the Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities’ Harvest at Home event can be found here.

Categories: GTPulse