In 2013, we began advising 10 sustainable small farms. In 2016, these original 10 farms graduated into our alumni program, while we simultaneously began a three-year journey with 15 new farms and ranches. And now at the end of this year, we are welcoming an incoming group of 14 new clients, tripling the number of small farms and ranches served since our inception. By assessing our program impact from the pilot project, we have been able to refine our program model and expand our services to a greater number of farms and ranches in the region. With greater reach, we are introducing new metrics to assess our clients' impact on soil health, food access, and social justice. Not to mention, we're also planting our stake in the ground to represent our support for diversity in the leadership of our food system, specifically among Latinos, women, and LGBTQ farmers.  

We are in a wonderful place right now--similar, yet different to the place many of our new clients are in when they join our organization.  Kitchen Table Advisors will be turning four years old this January 2017–-having just passed the starting line for our three-year pilot project--and now scaling up in Phase 2 of our growth. This is an exciting time, with the challenge of ramping up while staying thoughtful and true to our core values and priorities.  We are also setting the foundation for a humming organization--through planning for our current and future clients and improving systems for our team to have better efficiency without losing the personalized relationships that have proven to be the secret sauce of our work. Our team is changing and growing, which only means one thing: we are creating a better organization--collaborating on the best of our collective ideas, inspirations, and perspectives. 

During our New Client Gathering in November, we had the pleasure of bringing (almost) all of our new clients together to get acquainted, and ask questions, and harness the energy of the group. This cohort was game from the start, jumping in immediately and sharing challenges that they are facing right now and their overall visions for their farms. Farmers spoke about wanting to create a meaningful workplace for their employees--a place where their employees are happy to go everyday and find fulfillment in their contribution. We heard themes surrounding access to land, markets, and capital--these are many of the same challenges that young farmers face. In addition, there are the ever present challenges that are completely out of a farmer's control: weather, water, time, technology.

Our new cohort of clients are asking themselves big questions as well as finding themselves at inflection points that we are excited to support.  One set of new clients is a budding partnership where two farm owners are bringing on two new partners. They are thrilled for the expansion of their farm family, and are committed to supporting everyone and clarifying a common vision. Another client is currently determining the best legal structure for his business entity as well as preparing his business to hire employees. For all of our clients, deciding the right path forward for their enterprise comes at a time when the landscape of how business is done in our country is changing.  With already extreme labor shortages in the farm sector, the outlook for the future is unknown. Additionally, proposed changes to Agricultural Labor Laws are coming down the pipeline and the cost of land in the Bay Area continues to rise steadily.

One piece of what we do through our advising program is to help our farmers understand and manage risk. Some of that comes with planning for known risks, and some is creating resilience in their surroundings (labor pool, vendor relationships, lenders) that will sustain them through the unanticipated storms. Sometimes, simply creating the space and practicing looking up from the daily work toward what's ahead is enough to help our clients plan for success.

In the midst of these challenges, our new clients are also extremely well-poised for this success. There is a network of support available to them--food hubs like like Coke Farm, FEED Sonoma, Capay Valley Farm Shop, and Veritable Vegetable--that champion their farm treasures and stories. There is also a growing number of corporate food service companies offering healthy local farm to table food. From amazing chefs at celebrated restaurants to retailers who highlight farm sourcing to destination farmers markets, the local farming community is cherished and lauded by many folks in and around the Bay Area.

Our new and existing farmers will need all sorts of support to change the tide towards resilient and diverse farming communities, because everyone who eats is a part of the story. Continue voting with your fork! Purchase directly from your farmer: through a CSA, an animal share, from a trusted restaurant or retailer that sources from local farmers. Share with your neighbors and your kids about why local food and transparent sourcing is important to you. Support our incredible local network of organizations who work daily to create opportunities for triple bottom line farmers--ALBA, California Farmlink, POST, and CUESA. Most importantly, get to know your farmers and be a champion of your local farm scene.  

Without further ado, here is our wonderful new cohort of clients! And don't forget to check out our 2016 cohort and alumni, as well! 

Photos courtesy of Jeff Spirer.

 

It's around the holidays that I feel particularly blessed to live in California, and so close to the amazing year-round farmers market in Palo Alto. There is so much inspiration for what to make, so many beautiful produce options from Early Girl tomatoes in the summer, to acorn and kabocha squashes in the fall, to root vegetables in the heart of winter.

If you're like me, you're pretty tired of the Thanksgiving side of green beans in fatty cream sauce -- only slightly redeemed by crunchy chip-like onions on top. Do something different this season with the abundance of beautiful rainbow carrots. I wanted an alternative vegetable side dish that uses one of my favorite flavor combinations: sweet/salty/spicy. This is definitely a unique dish to bring with you to Friendsgiving celebrations, but can also serve to expand your family's horizons when eaten along with a traditional Thanksgiving spread.

  • 2 tbsp white miso paste
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 bunches of rainbow carrots (about 10-15 total)
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • Pepper to taste
  • Dry-roasted pepitas to sprinkle on top

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Wash and peel the carrots. Chop them into 1 inch thick chunks (optional). Toss in 1/2 tbsp of the olive oil and sprinkle with pepper and chili powder as desired.

In a cast iron skillet, heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil over medium heat until rippling. Add the carrots to the oil and allow to cook until darkened on the outside, and just soft enough to pierce through with a fork. They should still be rather firm.

In a small, separate bowl, stir miso paste, sesame oil and maple syrup until mostly smooth. When the carrots have softened slightly and browned, turn off the heat, pour the syrup mixture over them and toss. 

Add the carrots to the preheated oven and cook for about 20 more minutes, turning them over halfway and checking their texture. The syrup will become darker and sticky, and the carrots should be browned on the outside, but softer and easier to pierce through all the way.

Take them out of the oven and sprinkle pepitas over them. Serve warm.

If you're wondering where to collect your ingredients for this week's holiday meal, consider shopping at the Ferry Building's special Thanksgiving Farmers Market this Wednesday, where you can source produce, meats, and other delectable bites directly from your farmers, ranchers, and producers, including our client, Ground Stew Farms. 

The original recipe can be found on Megan's blog, The Bay Leaf Kitchen. Photos courtesy of Megan Leaf. 

Thank you for being on this journey with us. Whether you have been with us from the very beginning, or have recently found your way to this community, we are thrilled to share a big milestone with you - our very first impact report.

We are connected by a shared desire for healthy land, healthy workforces, and healthy food. And our local farmers and ranchers are an integral change agent in this ecosystem.

In 2013, Kitchen Table Advisors set out to test whether we could indeed make an impact on the long-term economic viability of our sustainable small farms and ranches, and help these hard-working and passionate business owners turn the corner and make a living. 

Three years later, we are thrilled to present the results of our pilot project, and share that we are making a difference in the livelihoods of our local farmers and ranchers. The secret to our success is simple - PEOPLE: hard-working and passionate farmers, and a close-knit network of 500+ businesses, volunteers, and donors.  

One of the key findings you’ll discover in the report is that on average, our clients’ net income increased more than 60% in 3 years - from $18,000 to $30,000! And while our pilot was focused on 10 farms, we are excited to grow our in-depth business advising to a critical mass of farms and ranches in Northern California. Over the next three years, we will build our capacity to serve 50 at a time.

Our work provides families greater access to fresh, healthy produce, and benefits rural communities in the form of more meaningful job creation and fair wages. We are investing in a future where a diverse spectrum of farmers and ranchers can make a living. Kitchen Table Advisors' contribution is part of a greater movement towards building a stronger regional food system - one that is clean, responsible, and just. 

I invite you to dig into our impact report, to share with others who also care about building a resilient local food system, and welcome the opportunity to chat with you in more detail about where we’ve been and where we’re heading.

On behalf of our staff and clients, thank you for being a part of this community.

Photos courtesy of Sarah Trent, Jonathan Fong, Jeff Spirer, Molly DeCoudreaux, and Elaine Patarini. 

 

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If you have the lucky opportunity to speak with Sergio Jimenez on his five-and-a-half acres at Ground Stew Farms or at one of his five weekly farmers markets, you’ll be struck immediately by his bright smile and humility. He’ll probably offer you a taste of his stunning produce while speaking about the immense gratitude he has for all who’ve helped make his farm in San Martin, California a success. He will likely also find a way to weave into the conversation that quality soil is at the heart of good farming.

Finding His Way Back to the Family Business

Sergio hails from Oaxaca, Mexico where his father was a successful farmer. He didn’t immediately fall into the family business, however. As a child, he recalls working long, hard hours helping on the farm while also attending school full time. He couldn’t picture his adult self as a farmer.

Fast-forward to his life in California: Sergio had a number of careers outside of farming, including a role with a manufacturing company and in real estate. The real estate work was incredibly stressful for Sergio. At that time, he had a large backyard and, with little effort, began growing things in his garden for fun and to help relieve stress. Farming in his garden came easily to him, and he soon realized the passion that he had for working the land.

Growing Soil

A relative told him to look into ALBA (Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association) in Salinas. He immediately signed up for classes with them, and learned how to both farm organically and run a business. As part of this program, he was able to lease land at a reasonable price so he could get his business off the ground. His first year (2012), he leased two and a half acres, and, in the last two years he has expanded to five and a half acres.

The current home of Sergio’s farm is ALBA’s Triple M Ranch, located in Northern Monterey County. The ranch is on a 195-acre farm, only 60-acres of which can be cultivated due to a natural land easement, with the rest zoned for conservation in the environmentally sensitive Elkhorn Slough watershed. Being in the slough, Sergio’s farm is not only a haven for beautiful produce, but also a mix of native frog species that include American Bullfrog, California Red-Legged Frog, and Pacific Tree Frog. Ground Stew and the resident frogs have built a harmonious life together in the watershed.

Sergio grows many kinds of certified organic fruits and vegetables, and the stars of the current summer season are his strawberries. Customers buy them weekly because of their incredible flavor. Late summer is tremendously busy for him, like most farmers. Currently, tomatoes, kale, and zucchini are top sellers at the farmers market. (Insider tip: You may see some of his perfectly delicate Little Gem lettuce in local restaurants soon.)

Sergio avoids using pesticides -- even organic ones -- on his crops whenever possible. He prefers to grow a large variety of plants, and “naturally confuse the pests.” In other words, Sergio is committed to integrated pest management, which means building biodiversity and employing a combination of natural tactics, like disrupting a pest’s living conditions, to reduce pest levels. At the core of his farming philosophy, he believes in creating a strong base for the roots of his plants. “I grow soil first before I grow plants," he says. "It’s very important for me to enhance the soil where I’m growing. I use a lot of compost and cover crops over the winter. Many people use organic practices, but I believe establishing healthy soil is the key.”

When you bite into one of his sweet-like-candy yellow tomatoes as I did this week, you will agree that whatever he’s doing to that soil is the right approach.

Struggles and Support

When asked about the biggest struggle he faces as a farmer, Sergio doesn’t complain about the exhausting work, the extensive hours, or anything one might expect. Instead, he shared that the lack of labor is the biggest challenge that he and other farmers face.

“This is what keeps me from expanding further: lack of labor," he says. "There aren’t enough people who want to work on a small farm like mine. I’m not sure why exactly. We depend on immigrants a lot, and the tightening of the border may be one cause of this. This happens to all farmers--both small and large commercial farmers. Signs all over the area advertise for more workers.”

Sergio shares that most farm workers get paid minimum wage, but he pays his folks more because he appreciates their work and hopes to earn their loyalty. He speaks of one smart and responsible worker with leadership skills that he helped develop recently. Sergio noticed a neighboring farmer trying to lure this employee away, which sadly seems to be all too common in times of shortage.

We don’t linger on this subject for too long. Sergio would rather speak about the support he’s received than focus on the negatives. He couldn’t say enough wonderful things about the connections he's made through ALBA, Kitchen Table Advisors, and CUESA. He also has great love for Oakland and San Francisco farmers market shoppers, because they are “very knowledgeable about how eating organic food positively impacts people and the environment.”

“Kitchen Table Advisors helped me get the farm’s financials organized," he says. "That’s still a challenge, but we are getting there! It’s hard to juggle farming, going to markets, and the books.” He also appreciates CUESA’s oversight of their farmers markets. “They are truly there to help and support small farmers, not just to collect a stall fee.”

You can find Ground Stew at the Jack London Square Farmers Market on Sundays, and at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market on Thursdays.

This article is a part of an ongoing series highlighting CUESA farmers and ranchers mentored by Kitchen Table Advisors. Together, CUESA and Kitchen Table Advisors are supporting the economic viability of the next generation of sustainable small farms by offering critical market and promotion opportunities and in-depth business and financial advising. You can read more articles about businesses supported by CUESA and Kitchen Table Advisors here.

Photos by Caitlin Crow, Orange Photography.

By Janet McGarry, CUESA Volunteer

Americans have become accustomed to jumbo portions of poultry, and few of us remember a time before oversized boneless breasts were the norm. These days, most chicken meat comes from birds bred to grow at an abnormally fast rate—as much as six pounds in six weeks. If humans grew this quickly, we would weigh 260 pounds at age two!

Accelerated growth takes a toll on birds’ health and quality of life. “Breeding for these qualities doesn’t produce animals that thrive in natural settings,” explains farmer Dede Boies of Root Down Farm. “Chickens’ legs and hearts can’t keep up with the weight gain, so they’re not able to move well. Turkeys’ breasts are so large that they are physically prevented from mating naturally, so they have to be artificially inseminated.”

Learning about the negative impacts of industrial animal agriculture inspired Dede to start Root Down Farm in Pescadero, where she raises heritage chickens, turkeys, ducks, and pigs humanely and sustainably.

“As I learned more about the food system and farming, it became a political passion as well as a love of the physical work,” she says. “Even though my farm is just a teeny tiny drop of change, I am trying to do the best I can to raise animals in a way that is healthy for each creature, the land, and the bellies they feed.”

Water-Wise Pasture Management

Raised in the New Jersey suburbs, Dede got her first taste of farming by volunteering through WWOOF in New Zealand and Hawaii. She later found herself at Pie Ranch in Pescadero and “totally fell in love with the place.” As she gained more farming experience raising baby goats at Harley Farms and helping to start Echo Valley Farm, she realized her heart lay in raising livestock.

In 2014, in the midst of California’s deepening drought, she decided to start her own project. Root Down set down roots on 62 acres owned by the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST). Having limited water has led Dede to certain decisions, like growing fewer annual crops and more perennials. She doesn’t irrigate the pastures, which impacts the cycle of rotational grazing, requiring longer periods of rest for each paddock.

“We get all of our water from the creek on the farm, and it almost dried up that first summer,” she remembers. “At first, I thought, ‘Wow, this is a crappy year to start a farm.’ But it actually turned out to be a good thing because we started the farm knowing that we had to deal with water issues, so we established drought-wise systems from the beginning.”

Animal Welfare Approved

The ranch is certified through Animal Welfare Approved (AWA), a program with rigorous animal welfare and environmental sustainability standards designed to ensure animals live in “a state of physical and psychological well-being” from the pasture to the slaughterhouse.

New Hampshire, Delaware, Barred Plymouth Rock, and Chantecler chickens—all heritage breeds—eat bugs, grubs, and grass on the pastures, and Dede supplements their diets with organic grain. They take 15 to 16 weeks to reach maturity, almost three times longer than industrially raised chickens. Similarly, the Bronze, Midget White, Bourbon Red, and Blue Slate turkeys on the farm take 27 weeks to reach maturity (compared to 16 to 18 weeks at large-scale operations). The slower growth of these heritage breeds increases the cost of raising each bird, but also improves the meat’s taste. 

“A chicken that is raised naturally, moving freely and developing muscles at a normal rate, has superior flavor,” explains Dede. “Meat is more evenly distributed around the bird, and it develops more dark meat. It’s amazing what a huge difference it makes to the taste.”

Due to its greater complexity, meat from heritage chickens needs to be cooked longer at lower temperatures. “Cooking requires more effort and time, but the end result is so worth it,” according to Dede.

Root Down also raises heritage pigs: crosses of Berkshire, Large Black, Red Wattle, Gloucestershire Old Spots, and Mulefoot breeds. They’re kept outside all day long and are fed a diet of organic vegetable scraps from nearby Blue House Farm. “We give them showers and wallows on hot days,” says Dede.

She divides the pigs into small groups of 12, rotating them to different pasture areas each week. This requires more work for Dede and the farm’s three part-time workers, but “when the groups are smaller, we can develop strong relationships with the animals and be more in tune with them,” she says. 

Humane Treatment On and Off the Farm

After investing so much effort and personal care in the animals, Dede says it can be difficult to say goodbye and send them to the slaughterhouse. “I feel better knowing that they had very good lives, that we gave them a lot of love, and that they are going into people’s bellies to nourish them,” she says. “I want people to recognize that bacon and pork chops come from living creatures, and that a ton of work and a whole life make the food possible.”

During the first year, Dede slaughtered all the poultry on site, which was labor-intensive and also limited where she could sell the meat, since meat sold at farmers markets and other off-farm locations must be processed at a USDA slaughter house. She now sends all the chickens that she brings to market to an AWA-certified processing facility in Stockton. “It’s all about speed so that the animal doesn’t suffer,” says Dede.

Root Down also offers poultry harvesting workshops to train others in how to humanely process chickens. “I get a lot of calls from people who want to bring their chickens to the farm to learn how to process them,” she says.

Deepening Roots

Dede credits Root Down’s successful start to supportive relationships she’s developed with other Pescadero farmers. “I feel like I wouldn’t be here without my community. You just have to lean on people with a range of skills to help you with building, equipment, and other advice.”

She has also benefitted from business and financial planning guidance from Kitchen Table Advisors, and infrastructure support from POST, which has invested in rebuilding the 100-year-old barn on the land she leases. “All of this support makes me feel like I’ve started the farm at the right time.”

She is delighted to share her love of raising livestock humanely and sustainably with others at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. “Public education is a big piece of what I’m doing,” she says. “So much of my story has to be told verbally. I’m really looking forward to engaging with customers face-to-face at the farmers market and letting them know how they can affect change.”

Support Root Down Farm at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market on Saturdays.

This article is a part of an ongoing series highlighting CUESA farmers and ranchers mentored by Kitchen Table Advisors. Together, CUESA and Kitchen Table Advisors are supporting the economic viability of the next generation of sustainable small farms by offering critical market and promotion opportunities and in-depth business and financial advising. You can read more articles about businesses supported by CUESA and Kitchen Table Advisors here.

Root Down Farm photos by Federica Armstrong. Market photo by Amanda Lynn Photography.

This feature was originally posted on CUESA's website on August 19, 2016. View it here.

As our summer days are now numbered, we can't let the season come to a close without preserving some of the beautiful flavors and colors for the colder months ahead. We love this simple recipe for using up our current bounty of tomatoes. They're perfect for freezing and busting out in the winter when you're craving a sweet remembrance of the warmer months. If you just can't wait to use them, try layering them with thin slices of roasted zucchini and eggplant for a summer vegetable strata, or eat them as is with a drizzle of balsamic. The possibilities are endless, just like the tomatoes. 

Amazingly Sweet Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

adapted from the nytimes.com

2 pounds medium tomatoes, halved lengthwise

Coarse salt to taste

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place foil on a baking sheet and oil the foil. Place the tomatoes, cut side up, on the sheet. Sprinkle with coarse salt and drizzle with olive oil. Place the pan in the oven and roast the tomatoes for 2 hours. Remove from heat and allow to cool for about 30 minutes. From there, you can either place the tomatoes into Ziploc bags and freeze or use them immediately!

Our friends and kindred spirits at CUESA recently shared the story of one of our clients, New Family Farm. We're grateful to be working alongside CUESA in spreading the stories of our Bay Area farms and supporting their thriving operations.

By Kayla Abe, CUESA Staff

As two outdoorsy college students at UC Santa Cruz, Ryan Powers and Adam Davidoff, the founders of New Family Farm in Sebastopol, never saw conventional office jobs in their futures. Exposed to issues of environmental degradation and justice in their studies, the burgeoning revolutionaries were moved to action. “We both felt committed to making change in our own lives using all that we have: our bodies and our time,” recalls Ryan.

The two friends each settled on agriculture as their path of environmental advocacy and social transformation. “Farming in the way we have chosen to farm is activism,” Ryan continues. “We need as many people as possible working toward causes in whatever way they want to. And we chose to farm.”

A Plot of Their Own

After attending both high school and college together, they parted ways. Adam worked as an apprentice on various farms across the county, and Ryan started a farm in Tennessee. With parallel life trajectories, Ryan and Adam seemed destined to pursue a project together, and years later, following a serendipitous reunion working on the same New Mexico farm, they moved to Sebastopol to begin their own farm.

The two initially farmed on multiple sites around town, offered up by members of the local community who were eager to support the first-generation farmers. Ryan recalls the challenges of juggling multiple plots: “There’s what we call ‘the tool shuffle of death.’ You’re at one site and you think, ‘Oh, I need this tool.’ And then you realize that you left it at the other site!”

The two forged on, writing letters to family, friends, and relatives in search of leads for their own land. In 2010, an employee at what is now one of their two main sites answered their call. With help from California FarmLink to secure the lease, coupled with business and financial planning consulting from Kitchen Table Advisors, Ryan and Adam were ready to hit the field. “We would not be here if it weren’t for the community around us, hands down,” says Ryan.

Modern Traditionalists

Integrating low-tech sustainable techniques like cover cropping, crop rotation, and dry-farming, Ryan and Adam operate their farm with hands-on care and a nostalgia for simpler times. Their first four years, they even experimented with using draft horses in place of tractors as homage to early farming traditions. “We use beauty as a standard,” states Ryan. “I think that what appears beautiful to us as natural and ecological organisms, as humans, is what’s good for the earth and for our bodies. It’s an intuitive criteria.”

Taking advantage of the coastal climate, New Family Farm focuses on cool-weather crops like lettuces, carrots, kale, and beets. They’ve also had success with dry-farming, a method by which crops are given little to no water. In addition to juicy dry-farmed tomatoes, Ryan and Adam produce dry-farmed quinoa, with their crop last season yielding over one ton per acre. “There’s definitely room for improvement, but that was without a single drop of water in the worst drought year in 600 years,” says Ryan. “For California during a water crisis, that’s a big deal.”

Feeding the Food Revolution

Growing tomatoes or quinoa without water is no small feat, but for Ryan and Adam, the most challenging work isn’t in the fields, but rather in the grocery aisle. “Americans have an insane dedication to food being the cheapest thing there is,” says Ryan. Comparing an industrially farmed tomato with one from a small organic farm, many customers see only the difference in sticker price. But behind the dollar signs are vast differences in growing practices and values.

Telling their story to produce buyers and distributors became a mandatory side project for the young farmers. “For years, I was calling stores twice a week saying, ‘Buy from me. Buy from me. This is why. I have all this good stuff. If you don’t like it, tell me why and I’ll make it better,’” recalls Ryan. “It took time for them to get it, but it’s clicking now. All the stores in Sonoma County are thumbs-up for local now.”

Finding Richness in the Margins

Ultimately, purchasing choices rest with shoppers, which is why Ryan and Adam like to connect directly with the public at farmers markets. As the young farmers feed the land and their community, the best way Bay Area eaters can give back is by showing up at their stand. Ryan admits that requesting that shoppers buy their food “sounds sort of capitalist,” but money spent on their produce is also an endorsement of values like supporting first-generation farmers and advocating for sustainable agriculture.

“As a farmer, I would prefer that all my sales were at farmers markets, and if everyone showed up, that’s how it would be,” he says. “Food is a really great place to start if you want to change something, change your life, change the world.”

“My friend once said, ‘The margins are thin in farming, but there is a richness in the margins,’” quotes Ryan. “There is a richness in what we do that cannot be bought or sold. What I’m growing is valuable, and I’m proud of it. There’s love and intention and respect that’s going into it. We’re making our little corner of the world more beautiful, and you can support that.”

Support New Family Farm on Tuesdays at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in San Francisco or Sundays at the Sebastopol Farmers Market.

This article is a part of an ongoing series highlighting CUESA farmers and ranchers mentored by Kitchen Table Advisors. Together, CUESA and Kitchen Table Advisors are supporting the economic viability of the next generation of sustainable small farms by offering critical market and promotion opportunities, and in-depth business and financial advising. 

Photos courtesy New Family Farm and Kitchen Table Advisors/Jonathan Fong.

This feature was originally posted on CUESA's website on August 12, 2016. View it here.

Photo credit: Jonathan Fong

Photo credit: Jonathan Fong

One of the best seats in the house for Grazing at the Kitchen Table is that of a guest. Last year, we were fortunate to fill Dogpatch Wineworks with so many wonderful friends and advocates eager to meet our farmers and chefs, and celebrate their unique contributions to our Bay Area food shed. In the crowd that evening was Grazing guest Susanna Poon who, after the event, dove even deeper into the Kitchen Table Advisors community by joining the Grazing host committee. Today, Susanna takes us back to her experience last year -- sharing not only the journey that brought her to KTA but also what has inspired her to give even more to Grazing this year.

I met Kitchen Table Advisors in 2014 when the organization applied and became a grantee of Full Circle Fund. As a member of Full Circle Fund, my friend and former colleague, Leslie Keil, invited me to attend Grazing -- she was on the host committee for the first edition of the event last year. Additionally, a few of my other Full Circle Fund colleagues, Rob Trice and Jonathan Fong, were big supporters. Friends volunteer together, give together, and eat and drink together. I was certain that, with this community of friends all ready rallying around Grazing, there would be more to follow.

Photo credit: Jonathan Fong

Photo credit: Jonathan Fong

My connection to our local purveyors began before I discovered Grazing. I shop the farmers market every weekend and know all the people who grow and sell my eggs, avocados, tomatoes, berries, steak, cheese, spinach, flowers, and more. There is a sense of community seeing these same people every week, running into friends, and chatting with strangers about how best to cook our ingredients. I have learned that growing healthy and delicious food is a hard job, the profit margins are small, and it is challenging to maintain a viable business. I want my farmers market to stay vibrant, so here I am, doing what I can to support KTA and their efforts to sustain our small, local growers.

Grazing is about connecting all kinds of people in the local food community, including the farmers who produce the food, the local vendors who sell it, the restauranteurs who transform it into meals, and the diners who enjoy it. Last year, I came as a guest and I am now on the host committee this year. Anthony and Pei-Yee are both infectious enthusiasts -- the helping spirit becomes contagious. I have spent time working with both of them on how to spread the word about KTA, diversify the community of supporters, and grow the organization through deeper philanthropic relationships. I have given more of my time and, instead of only buying auction items, I am now soliciting for them. For me, it was about opening more of my heart, home, and wallet. Our shared passion for food is worth celebrating and PROTECTING! Let’s help small farmers stay in business, understand the issues, and spread the word. 

This September, I look forward to meeting the new crop of farmers and hearing their stories, eating some amazing cooking (especially Dennis Lee whom I, along with others, invited to the event), seeing my friends come out to learn and celebrate, meeting new people in the food community, bidding on auction items, and toasting the evening together. I’m taking the morning after off… 

This is a great party with a great mission that you'll want to attend!

Grazing at the Kitchen Table takes place from 6.30pm to 9.30pm on Thursday, September 22, 2016 at Dogpatch WineWorks in San Francisco. Tickets are on sale now--don't wait to reserve your seat! Follow #GrazeAndGive2016 for updates.