At a secret location, somewhere in Indiana, a dedicated group of chileheads will gather for what has been best described as a “Woodstock for ChileHeads”. In late September, folks with a love of the outdoors, spicy food, chile peppers, and good company, will gather in a rented farm field- rain or shine- and enjoy a weekend of socializing while strolling amongst 1,000 chile pepper plants. And, it is 100% totally FREE. For those unfamiliar with the event known as “Open Fields”, a little bit of history…..
Open Fields started as a means for me to try and let others pick what they could from my fields after the plants had been frosted. Once the chiles have been nipped, there is a very limited window of ‘salvageability’ to them before they became mush. Rather than them go to waste, I threw the fields open to one and all to help themselves. People could pick and take as much as they wanted (free) from as many as 50,000 chiles, mostly Red Savina(R) Habanero. As it was done on short notice (never could trust those weather forecasters to be accurate!) very few people showed up the first few years. The event then ‘morphed’ into a fixed date based upon when I thought I’d harvested enough chiles to see the business through to the next year. This allowed people to actually *plan* to attend and the number showing up changed dramatically. Some years however, I had to announce harvest restrictions on particular varieties owing to the vagaries of farming. I didn’t have enough for what I needed so there were a few years of ‘pick this, not that’. Over the years, the popularity of the event continued to grow- hard to beat ‘free’ after all- and was even featured on the Food Network a couple of times as well as several other shows. The event was required to evolve again. Starting somewhere around 2003, I decided to plant a field that was strictly for the event- no harvest restrictions, no limits, no nothing. In addition, the date was announced far in advance of the event allowing people to attend from quite a distance. It is truly amazing the distance that some folks have travelled to hang out in a farm field in Central Indiana for a weekend with fellow chileheads! There’ve been people from well over 35 States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Denmark, The Netherlands, England, & Argentina. They all come to either primitive camp in the fields or stay in the nearest hotel 20 miles away. Truly amazing! Most everyone comes prepared to cook ‘camp food’ and share with anyone who walks by and there are some folks who can cook some amazing things with very few modern conveniences! In 2006, after the lunacy that was/is www.StepUpforCharity.org, an auction was added on Saturday afternoon that benefited the charity. Several overly generous chileheads donate a vast amount of gift baskets, chile trinkets, sauces, pepper plants, and you name it, that are raffled off. It has become one of the highlights of the event. More on that later.
In February of 2011, I sold the chile pepper business and for the first time in (literally) 50 years I did not have a single chile pepper plant in the ground. For years, folks insisted that the event “wasn’t about the chiles”. I found it hard to believe but sure enough, over 100 people still showed up in 2011 without a single chile to pick. Most brought the excess from their own gardens and dumped them out onto a huge tarp for folks to pick through and help themselves. That has moved me to plant chiles again. Though in most years I planted just over 10,000 to 11,000 chiles (40 to 60 kinds) simply for this event, I am forced by circumstances to ‘inch’ back into this. As the event must be self supporting, there will only be 1,000 chiles (10 kinds) in the ground. I wish to make it clear that the cost of planting the chiles, renting the ground, tent, and port-o-pottys, must come from the proceeds of the auction. In years past, 100% of the money went to the charities but that can no longer be the case as there is no business to absorb all the associated costs. I wish to thank all the chileheads, in particular Jim Duffy of Refining Fire Chiles, Beth Boyd of Bayou Traders, and Susan Wesland aka ChileWoman, for their generous donation of seeds. There will be Moruga Scorpion, Butch T Scorpion, Red Savina(R), Naga Jolokia, Chimayo, Nardello, African Fish, Poinsettia, as well as a few others. It will be split about 70% super hots & 30% mild.
So!!! Please consider this your invite to attend the event known as “Open Fields 2012”. If you wish to attend, you must drop me an email ‘jim at wildpepper.com’ with the subject header of Open Fields 2012, in order that I might send you directions to the event, as well as additional important information. The event is what you make of it- donate to the auction, buy some raffle tickets, cook some food, pick some chiles, or just sit & chill out- you are free to participate in whatever manner you feel like. Feel free to drop me a question if you have one & see you there!
[Pics link with some commentary below. Thanks again guys!]