Kristin Hull, Founder, CEO & CIO of Nia Impact Capital, is putting feminism into our finances.


Motivated by a deep sense of social justice, Kristin Hull is helping changemakers connect the dots between investment practices and the world we want to see, from gender equity to sustainable food to climate consciousness. And as a member of the Host Committee for this year’s Grazing at the Kitchen Table, we are honored to highlight her work through this year’s theme of celebrating the women changing our food system.

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Growing up in Oakland, Kristin Hull discovered an innate sense of justice: who got to sit where on the bus; who had first pick of the picture books or reading activities. So it was a natural transition when she began her career as a classroom teacher, viewing education as a starting point to create change in her community. In 2007, after years spent observing the gap in financial literacy within the American education system, and society as a whole, she realized there was an untapped opportunity for impact in another way: through teaching individuals how to connect the dots between their investment practices and the world they want to see.

Within her world of fellow activists, Kristin saw many of her peers spending their careers fighting against the societal status quo, and yet when it came to their finances they either lacked the awareness, knowledge or confidence to veer from the norm. Very few existing companies were offering alternative solutions, let alone providing education to their clients. Enter Nia Community Investments, which Kristin launched in 2010 and is today Nia Impact Capital. The company takes a completely innovative approach to what they call “conscious investing,” looking to disrupt the industry on all levels. Kristin describes this approach as “being aware of where our money is… We jump into a life engaged in finance but are not aware of its implications. If your money isn’t at home in dollars bills, where is it? Does it sit in a bank, or does it get loaned out to terrible pipeline projects that we spend our days fighting.” In short, you can choose the companies that you invest in, and they can be aligned with your vision of the world.

Nia Impact Capital focuses their investment portfolio on six key themes that align with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and are necessary for both people and planet, including “natural and organic foods” and “sustainable planet.” Kristin shared that it felt important-- both personally and to the company-- to include both because we are at a critical point in time. As populations (& climate crises) rise, people will still need to eat and be healthy, so how do we do so in a way that also regenerates the earth and soil.

Woven throughout this work is an emphasis on gender equity that she refers to as “putting feminism into finances.” Within the company, it’s embedded from top to bottom (Nia is women owned and led) and through programs such as the Impactful Women Series, a networking and education event for women who want to be in the impact investment space and the Changing the Face of Finance internship for high school girls and college-aged young women. Recently, Nia was the first ever recipient of the GEN Certification, a new data-driven standard for assessing how U.S. businesses show up for gender equity. The process was similar to that which Nia undergoes with their portfolio companies, assessing how their practices and processes support gender equality. And given Kristin’s passion for the movement, the results were not at all surprising. “Turns out we were doing almost everything right, but we also learned the research about why it’s important.”

Kristin applies the same lense to Nia’s portfolio. “Instead of starting at the top, we start with whether the core products and services are beneficial to women and girls, and then take a look at their practices and how many women are on the board or within leadership.” Take online marketplace powerhouse Etsy, which offers its sellers (89% of whom are women) entrepreneurship training around how to merchandise and market their products, and just so happens to steal part of the market share from less socially-conscious companies like Amazon.

When it comes to their clients, Nia Impact Capital continues to encourage an awareness of how their portfolios align with their own values around feminism. For example, if you’re following the #MeToo movement, attending the Women’s March, you should extend that consciousness to where your money lies. Are you investing in companies that don’t have women in leadership, or are harmful towards women’s rights in other ways?

Another of Kristin’s goals around gender equity is to train the next generation of women to feel empowered around their finances and career choices. On her blog, The Money Doula, Kristin offers tips around talking to advisors about their options, the merits of choosing female advisors and how to bring Nia’s investment philosophy into one’s personal finances. When asked what professional advice she would give young women similarly interested in social change, she shared: “the world is changing. Before there would be a specific sector to go into, and yet maybe because the planet is heating up, or the rise of the #MeToo movement, or increased awareness in racial justice, we each need  to bring our passion into wherever we work. Choose a place where you can bring your full self. Be strong about saying no to the status quo.” And because change is what our planet needs right now, Kristin assures that your career will reward you for it.

What is Kristin most excited in regards to the upcoming Grazing at the Kitchen Table? “I am excited about this event, getting the word out about why Kitchen Table Advisors’ work is so important right now. To meet women chefs and farmers doing awesome work, and being able to celebrate them, feels exciting.”

To learn more about Nia Impact Capital’s innovative approaching to investing, or read Kristin’s tips on how to bring feminism into your finances, visit www.niaimpactcapital.com


Grazing at the Kitchen Table takes place from 6:30pm to 9pm on Thursday, October 4, 2018 at Dogpatch WineWorks in San Francisco. Follow #GrazeAndGive2018 for updates. 

Photos courtesy of Nia Impact Capital.

After a month, we're still in awe. We're still trying to find the words to express our gratitude for the support, generosity, joy and hope that our community brought to Grazing at the Kitchen Table. On September 22nd, as we stood in Dogpatch Wineworks and gazed at the room full of people from across our local food system, we were struck by the countless relationships and connections that surrounded us. It was not only humbling, but also motivating to see such a deeply shared commitment to our local farmers and food makers.

In preparing for Grazing, volunteer Jen Gurvey helped us deliver produce to our participating chefs. While out on delivery, Jen shared how she and one of our donors, Elizabeth Hill from West Marin Food and Farm Tours, had developed a lovely friendship since last year's Grazing. Arriving at Piccino for delivery, we ran into Melissa Chen, one of their managers, who used to work for Jen and was invaluable to connecting us with PIccino chefs.  

Juan Aquino grew up in Watsonville and has worked for Capital One, a Kitchen Table Advisors funder, for many years. During Grazing, Juan met Kitchen Table Advisors client Sergio Jimenez of Ground Stew Farms in Watsonville. The two reminisced over their shared home, and Juan got a chance to know one of the farmers that his company is supporting.
— Pei-Yee Woo, Kitchen Table Advisors Associate Director

It’s moments like these that emphasize how we’re weaving together something special here. We couldn’t have been happier to see every seat full at the community tables in the room, or hear our chefs remark about how welcomed and appreciated they felt by Grazing guests. Our community is stronger than ever, and, for this reason, our voice and impact are growing across our regional food shed.

As a fundraiser, this year's edition of Grazing was a huge success in raising the resources needed to fund our work. The generosity we’ve been shown enables us to have a solid financial foundation from which to provide the personal advising and connection building that will help our clients thrive. The event is a reminder of the larger ecosystem that we are a part of--and incredibly important to both strengthening our community ties as well as creating a space to acknowledge, celebrate and enjoy the collective efforts of everyone. 

We’re already reaching out and following up on collaborations which began that evening--nothing can replace meaningful face-to-face time as an opportunity for creativity and personal connection. We are inspired and emboldened as we continue to stitch our thread of this tapestry for a thriving, local food system.  

Photos by Caitlin Crow, Orange Photography.

Chef Aaron Thayer has a deep respect for how food is grown, and sourcing is at the core of the dishes he serves at Petit Crenn. Speaking with me while on a daily run to the farmers market, Chef Thayer, Petit Crenn’s executive sous chef, has an undeniable commitment to local. 

When asked why he decided to cook a dish for Grazing at the Kitchen Table, he shares that a colleague at Petit Crenn suggested he get involved because of his love of local, expertly grown food. He is excited to help promote and honor the work of local farmers. “You can just taste all the care and love in the products that are grown by these small-scale farmers. That translates well into how much love I put into my cooking.”

Chef Thayer cooks in a way that represents his style of eating. His cooking is grounded in comfort food traditions, and he aims to provide a nostalgic and sentimental food experience for his guests. He is inspired by Chef Sean Brock, known for serving Lowcountry cuisine that utilizes lost ingredients. Chef Thayer has a passion for preserving heirloom grains, and loves making dishes like the Southern classic Hoppin’ John to bring these disappearing grains to new audiences.

With the changing of the seasons, comes the changing of Petit Crenn’s menu. One of his current favorite offerings is Gnocchi à la Parisienne. This dish showcases summer’s bountiful sweet corn in a number of unique ways. Aaron shares that corn is one of his favorite foods. That might be because he grew up in Hadley, Massachusetts -- next to a cow farm and across the street from a corn field.

From there, he attended culinary school at Johnson & Wales in Providence, Rhode Island, and cooked in several well respected Boston area restaurants including Mooo, a modern steakhouse in Boston’s Beacon Hill, as well as Ken Oringer’s legendary Clio, that has since closed. Two years ago, he made the move to San Francisco, and couldn’t be happier.

Chef Thayer looks forward to celebrating local growers at Grazing. His goal of the evening is to create awareness of the incredible growers in our community and use his dish as a vehicle to highlight the hard work of these farmers.

Grazing at the Kitchen Table takes place from 6.30pm to 9.30pm on Thursday, September 22, 2016 (this week!) at Dogpatch WineWorks in San Francisco. Get your seat today! Follow #GrazeAndGive2016 for updates. 

Photos courtesy of Petit Crenn & Aaron Thayer.

Nick Balla grew up in the rural Midwest, a far cry from the bustling urban stretch his restaurant Bar Tartine now calls home. When it came to their food, Balla’s family lived by a zero-waste philosophy. If they couldn’t eat something immediately, they would preserve it to eat in the future. Years later, wildly successful and hyper-seasonal Bar Tartine shares this philosophy with the Balla family.

When Nick and his partner Cortney Burns started Bar Tartine, they were clear in their commitment to local and seasonal, even encouraging their suppliers to pursue the same. The restaurant developed an exclusive relationship with Full Table Farm in Yountville, located just 40 miles north of San Francisco. Nick and Cortney met Full Table farmers Juston and Mindy at an event a few years ago, being immediately drawn to their produce. After a meeting on the farm, both farmers and chefs were convinced that a unique and important partnership was blossoming.

The exclusive relationship between Bar Tartine and Full Table Farm guarantees the farmers a reliable source of income -- one not subject to the whims of chefs, uncertain markets, or even the weather. Whatever Juston and Mindy grow, Nick and Cortney use. Along with having a deeper connection to their ingredients, the relationship also encourages the chefs to constantly rethink and retool their menu. Fresh peppers are dried and milled into paprika –- a popular spice on their menu. “Ugly” produce is transformed into jams, sauces, and other products reminiscent of the canning of Nick’s youth. At the table, Nick and Cortney’s approach is best represented by the iconic Bar Tartine sprouted croquette dish. Composed of whatever sprouted legumes are on hand, the buttermilk byproduct of churning their own butter, and bread scraps, the ingredients for this customer favorite could just as easily be found in the food waste bin in a different kitchen.

Nick and Cortney's zero-waste philosophy extends beyond the produce they source for their kitchen. A meat order for Bar Tartine kitchen usually begins with a conversation with Patricia of Happy Hens Farm. Patricia updates the chefs on what meat is available while the chefs prepare for whatever arrives the next day. As Nick puts it, “We should all be constantly available to think outside the box and adapt the way we think about our relationship with growers. How do we evolve our notion of what we need versus what we want?” To this end, Nick and Cortney are actively involved in developing a sustainable distribution system for small producers, which includes utilizing reusable produce containers to cut down on packaging costs.

Both Nick and Cortney understand that meaningful collaborations move us all closer toward a resilient and interdependent food system. Sharing a passion for the livelihood of small farmers, working with Kitchen Table Advisors was a natural fit for the chefs. Next week during KTA's Grazing at the Kitchen Table, Nick and Cortney look forward to bringing their love of local and seasonal to the community meal.

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

Photos courtesy of Bar Tartine.

I was early for my interview. Partially nerves, but mostly a craving for award-winning tacos from Tacos Cala. Fortunately for me, I have a large appetite. After I downed two squid, one egg, and a sweet potato taco prior to our designated meeting time, Gabriela came and offered me lunch! Who was I to say no….

Gabriela Cámara immediately strikes you with her gracious nature and energy. We recently sat down at a table in her San Francisco restaurant, Cala, to discuss her take on sustainable sourcing in the Bay Area as a single window washer worked away on the front of the restaurant. Gabriela looked on, worried about how long he’d been standing precariously on his ladder and noting how meticulous he was in his work.

The way Gabriela cares for and interacts with her workers comes as no surprise. After all, she’s received significant press for her practice of hiring formerly incarcerated individuals to staff her restaurant. While this certainly came up in our conversation, I was here first and foremost to learn more about her experience and thoughts on working with local farms to create her much-praised menu.

As most people know, Gabriela first came to fame in her native Mexico with the opening of Contramar, and currently owns four restaurants in the capital city. Contramar’s focus is fresh fish and seafood –- something that wasn’t being done anywhere in Mexico City at the time of its opening in 1998, Gabriela says. The inspirations that shaped Gabriela's restaurant concept came from the U.S.; of most consequence -- Chez Panisse. “My experience eating there was truly transformational. I realized that thoughtfulness behind the scenes and awareness of impact could bring the eating experience full circle for everyone involved,” Gabriela reflects. Now, Gabriela herself enjoys the company of Alice Waters as a fellow restaurateur, and will be traveling to Terra Madre with her at the end of the month.

“How does sustainable sourcing in Mexico compare with the process in the Bay Area?” I ask. “Mexico is still building its system for responsible sourcing, whereas in the Bay Area that system is already built,” she states. For a chef, it’s a dream to be tapped into such a system, but, of course, there is an adjustment period to pricing, particularly when coming from Mexico. Still, it’s important to Gabriela that farmers are paid well, and that’s where there is plenty of room for improvement in our local food system. We agreed that the general population still needs to be educated about the true costs behind food production.

How did Gabriela first tap into the local food community to source her ingredients for Cala? One key event occurred in the most unlikely way -- through a fellow parent at her son’s school (a parent who also happens to be an Ambassador for Kitchen Table Advisors). Given the easy connections characteristic of our tight-knit Bay Area food community, Gabriela has been able to build first-name basis relationships with many farmers, including several in the Capay Valley in Yolo County -- Say Hay Farms, Fiddlers Green Farm, and the pioneering Full Belly Farm. She’s also tapped into the local farmers market scene and buys twice a week from Frog Hollow Farm, Dirty Girl, and Star Route Farms at the San Rafael and Ferry Building farmers markets.

Gabriela is excited for a fresh bounty of new vegetables to arrive with fall so she can build her new menus. To celebrate the season, she plans on contributing a squash ceviche and bean dish to the Grazing at the Kitchen Table menu. In the meantime, the summer harvest is keeping her busy. “The tomatoes right now are amazing!” she enthusiastically shares.

As Gabriela and I were wrapping up our conversation, we reflected on the social justice components that link her strong belief and practice of hiring those coming out prison with supporting sustainable agriculture. It’s a commitment to disrupting systems of inequality and placing humans at the center of the system. Gabriela’s personal and professional ethic certainly does this –- from the farmers who grow her food, to the workers who prepare it, to presenting her guests with the opportunity to enjoy a meal with the knowledge that everything behind the dish is made with respect and integrity.

Let’s not forget the practical angle in the midst of the larger ethical argument, either. Before I left, Gabriela gave me a grilled cucumber taco to try. Grilled cucumber? Yes, it was delightful. “Cucumbers are in season and it's great to incorporate in-season produce when they are abundant so we can keep the cost of our tacos low,” Gabriela shares. As of this writing, her tacos are $3.50 a la carte or three for $12. A steal by San Francisco standards.

I've always been moved by the Gandhi quote "Be the change you wish to see in the world." This is what came to my mind as I enjoyed my visit with Gabriela Cámara. She is certainly a change agent we are fortunate to have in the Bay Area.

Come be a part of the change that Chef Cámara is bringing to Bay Area food during Grazing at the Kitchen Table. The event 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.

Photos courtesy of Cala.

Sophina Uong comes with an impressive resume - Executive Chef at multiple Bay Area restaurants, and Grand Champion of this summer’s Chopped Grill Masters competition. To be honest, her resume is intimidating to an interviewer. However, what also comes across when you meet the Executive Chef of Oakland’s Calavera, is how approachable and family-oriented she is.

On a recent sunny afternoon in Berkeley, I joined Sophina, her fiancé William (also of Calavera), her daughter Roan, and Roan’s friend Katie for a lunch of tacos, ceviche, and tortilla soup at Tacubaya to discuss how she’s developed her commitment to sourcing locally and supporting farmers through her work.

Sophina is quick to point out that her move into sourcing locally happened over time and wasn’t always the easiest endeavor. As sous chef at Waterbar, she was first exposed to working with local farmers by wandering the Ferry Building with the restaurant’s purchaser to learn about sustainable seafood options. This gave her a taste of both the challenges and the satisfaction that comes with planning a menu comprised of local, seasonal ingredients. “When you’re used to having different ingredients available to you all the time, shifting to using seasonal and what can be delivered by a farmer or fisherman on certain days of the week is a challenge to your menu planning. But you learn to adjust because it’s worth it.”

Her usage of ingredients grown within a 100-mile radius increased when she joined the team at Revival Bar & Kitchen where she found herself using the whole animal as part of Revival’s commitment to “vitalitarian” cuisine. "It definitely made me think more carefully about my menus, as well as how to introduce new and unusual cuts of meat to our clientele.”

Over time, Sophina’s growing reliance on local ingredients fed her commitment to partnering with farmers. Recently, she’s been excited to partner with KTA client Happy Acre Farm, located in the Sunol Farm Park in Alameda County. “Our staff at Calavera has been really excited about the possibilities of this partnership too,” Sophina says. She adds, “buying locally and getting to know who is growing and raising the ingredients I use has really increased my respect for farmers and ranchers doing the right thing – using sustainable farming techniques, treating the animals respectfully, and working to provide us with healthier and ethical options.”

As Sophina’s commitment to sourcing locally and seasonally has deepened, so has her involvement in the local food movement. She’s energized by her work with the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA), Cochon 555’s Heritage Fire + Heritage Board, and increasing her partnership with Kitchen Table Advisors to access more local farmers and ranchers. She participated in last year’s Grazing at the Kitchen Table, and is thrilled to return this year and contribute a meat dish featuring lamb from Skyelark Ranch.

When asked what kind of contribution she’d like to make to the Bay Area food scene, she’s clear that she’d like her food to be known as “approachable, quirky, fun and yummy.” Her daughter, Roan Pearl, was willing to add some of her insight on her mother’s culinary vision. “She’s good at Korean barbeque and she can come home, look in the refrigerator and put together random ingredients you wouldn’t think go together, and it’s delicious!” Fun, quirky, local cuisine brought to you by the reigning Chopped Grand Champion Grill Master.

The Bay Area is ready for local and sustainable to also be fun and quirky, and Sophina is clearly the right chef to remind us that a commitment to local and sustainable is not diametrically opposed to joy and playfulness in the kitchen or on the plate!  

Join Chef Uong in her wondrous world of food on September 22nd, 2016 from 6.30pm to 9.30pm during Grazing at the Kitchen Table. The event will be hosted at Dogpatch WineWorks in San Francisco. Tickets are on sale now--don't wait to reserve your seat! Follow #GrazeAndGive2016 for updates.

Photos courtesy of Sophina Uong.

Paige Schoening and her fellower Googlers at Root Down Farm

Paige Schoening and her fellower Googlers at Root Down Farm

At Kitchen Table Advisors, we're about people--helping, growing, motivating, and bringing together people. What we've found along this journey of ours is that we're not alone in this commitment. We are continually humbled and inspired by our community of small farm supporters, who are unrelenting in their quest to better people's lives. Paige Schoening is one of these shining lights in our extended KTA family. In her first year with us, she has not only generously volunteered her personal time and network, but also brought KTA to work with her. Grazing at the Kitchen Table marks Paige's one year anniversary as a volunteer and, in celebration of this occasion, she joins us to share how Grazing was the start of something beautiful in her life.

Words cannot express how much I admire the work of our local farmers. I want to do everything I can to support them because I know how hard it is to make it as a farmer. Our Bay Area growers are some of the most hard working, determined, kind, passionate, and relentless people I've ever met. They are the foundation of our local food system and community.

Google's visit to Root Down Farm

Google's visit to Root Down Farm

Needless to say, when I first learned about Kitchen Table Advisors' work empowering small farm sustainability, I didn't hesitate to get involved. Grazing at the Kitchen Table was the first opportunity to volunteer and it couldn't have been a better introduction. Everyone that I met at the event was warm, interesting, and passionate about KTA's work. Even though it was my first time volunteering, I felt welcomed and included right from the start. I was so pumped by the excitement of everyone at the event that it didn't matter I'd already worked an eight-hour day before starting my volunteer shift. In fact, it didn't occur to me that I was tired until I was standing outside waiting for a ride home. I was so happy to be in the midst of such a vibrant community that the energy in the room carried me through the entire evening.

In approaching the second edition of Grazing this September, I can hardly believe that it's already been a year since I started volunteering. And what a memorable year it's been! I've represented the organization as an ambassador at events, attended meet-ups, and have brought KTA to my day job. I work as a Farmers Market Specialist for a company called Guckenheimer at the Google office in San Francisco. I help San Francisco's Google cafes source local food in addition to educating and engaging Google employees in where their food comes from. I connected KTA with our office's Bay Area Farm to Table Group and we set up a volunteer day at Root Down Farm. A group of over 20 volunteers headed out to Root Down to help Dede mulch her apple orchard and learn about her operation. Being that it was an official GoogleServe volunteer project, Google donated money to KTA for each hour worked!

A gathering like Grazing is important to our local food shed because it brings us all together to celebrate our collective work. As farmers, chefs, eaters, and supporters, being in community is what brings us to life and unites us in a shared journey. Grazing is an experience that honors our strong food community, highlighting both the road that we've traveled together and what lies ahead. However big or small, we each contribute in our own way and, at Grazing, this communal commitment and contribution is palpable.

Decorators, kitchen crew, produce team, delivery drivers, and even a Salesforce hero -- we've got a volunteer role for everyone during Grazing at the Kitchen Table. Sign up now to get down with our community! Grazing at the Kitchen Table takes place from 6.30pm to 9.30pm on Thursday, September 22, 2016 at Dogpatch WineWorks in San Francisco. Follow #GrazeAndGive2016 for updates.

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.

 

Javier Zamora grew up farming in Michoacán, Mexico where no chemicals or herbicides were used in their food system. They rotated crops and let the land rest -- a practice that Javier continues to this day. In his twenties, Javier moved to Los Angeles to work in the restaurant industry. At forty-three, having decided to return to school, he relocated to Santa Cruz to study agriculture. The choice to grow food based on organic methods was a simple one. In addition to being his passion, it was what he knew growing up, “It’s a little more of a challenge than conventional farming, but, for me, it’s just natural. I don’t think I could do anything else. I love what I do. I enjoy it. It’s my life and livelihood. It’s so beautiful to see, you know, a seed going into the ground and then bringing the beautiful product out to the customer and seeing how happy it makes them. It’s a whole circle."

Ten of Javier’s active twenty-four acres are devoted to strawberries. He grows four different varieties: Hood, Sweet Ann, Chandler, and Albion. He continuously hands visitors fistfuls of his mouth-watering berries. They are juicy, sweet, and still warm from the sun – the best way to eat them. Javier also grows avocados, cucumbers, various kinds of squash, corn, green beans, blackberries, raspberries, heirloom tomatoes, beets, potatoes, peppers, leeks, onions, artichokes, French and English lavender, and many kinds of flowers. He is very proud of the biodiversity on his farm and he continues to add new and innovative crops and varietals.

Javier started JSM Organics four years ago (2012) by himself on one acre of land in Royal Oaks (Watsonville area), CA. The business has grown exponentially. He employs over twenty people and grows on forty-six acres. He hopes to purchase a piece of land to bring his working farm to a total of one-hundred acres. One of his goals is to provide small plots of five to ten acres to other growers. “There are a lot of growers out there that need five or ten acres, but they can’t get it because it’s not available. If it is available, it’s usually the larger companies who are the ones that hear about it first. In this case, I hear about land being available because I’m always going to workshops and speaking with people, so that’s how I got the leases for this land. If I get this additional land, I can help make small parcels available to small growers in the area.” Javier, along with other farmers in Santa Cruz, are not the only farmers who have trouble finding land—this is a global issue. As more and more corporations acquire farmland, less land is available to small farmers. 

Javier’s been working with Kitchen Table Advisor, David Mancera, for nearly a year. David has been providing Javier with guidance on accessing markets and capital in addition to managing cash flow. Kitchen Table Advisors has played an important role in helping Javier work toward this land purchase. “David’s helping out a lot with FarmLink--now that we’re trying to buy this property. He helps me understand when I need to do certain things, always pointing me toward the direction that I need to head in. I feel like I fit in really good because I’m the same way. Guys come to me for direction and they need a few things and I can always direct them where to go or help them get things done. I’m proud being a part of that community.” While Javier has officially only been working with KTA for one year, Javier met Anthony Chang, KTA Founder and Executive Director, when he first started farming. Anthony, who was working at FarmLink at the time, helped Javier get his first loan of $5,000 in 2012. Since then, Javier has received loans from FarmLink every year. Last year he received $200,000! Having the people and resources available at KTA and FarmLink has made his work possible, and his farm more likely to succeed and grow sustainably. For Kitchen Table Advisors and for David in particular, “It's very rewarding to help small farms become sustainable businesses."

Come meet Javier and taste JSM Organic’s beautiful strawberries this September 22nd, 2016 from 6.30pm to 9.30pm during Grazing at the Kitchen Table. The event will be hosted at Dogpatch WineWorks in San Francisco. Tickets are on sale now--don't wait to reserve your seat! Follow #GrazeAndGive2016 for updates.

Before Grazing, you can track down Javier's sun-kissed strawberries at the following markets: Facebook Farmers Market, Visa Farmers Market, US Community Center Farmers Market (Foster City), Fort Mason Farmers Market, New Leaf Market, and Bi-Rite Market.


Javier Zamora creció en Michoacán, México en una familia agricultura. Durante ese tiempo, granjeros no usaron químicos ni herbicidas en la sistema alimentario, ellos simplemente rotado los cultivos y dejan la tierra a descansar, una practica que Javier se continuo a este día. En su veintena, Javier se mudó a Los Ángeles y trabajado en el industria de restaurantes. A la edad de cuarenta-tres años, él decidió a regresar escuela. Él se mudó a la área de Santa Cruz para estudiar agricultura. Para Javier, la elección de métodos orgánicos para su cultivos, fue una muy fácil. Además de ser apasionado de alimentos orgánicos, los métodos fue la manera de él creció, “Es un poco más difícil que agricultura convencional, pero, para mi, es lógico; es solo natural. No creo que pudiera hacer cualquier otra cosa. Yo encanto lo que hago. Lo disfruto. Es mi vida y mi subsistencia. Es tan hermoso a ver, tu sabes, una semilla de entrar la tierra y luego, a traer los productos tan bonitos a los clientes y a ver cuán felicidad mis cultivos hacen ellos. Es un circulo completo.”

Diez de sus veinticuatro acres en uso están dedicados a las fresas. Él cultiva cuatro variedades: Hood, Sweet Ann, Chandler, and Albion. Javier dará continuamente puñados de sus fresas que hace la boca agua a sus visitantes. Son jugosos, dulces y todavía calentitas por el sol, la mejor forma de comerlas. Además, Javier cultiva: aguacates, pepinos, varias tipos de calabazas, maíz, judías verdes (ejotes), moras, frambuesas, tomates heirloom, betabeles (remolachas), papas, pimientos, poros (puerros), cebollas, alcachofas, lavanda inglesa y lavanda francesa, y muchos tipos de flores. Él esta muy orgulloso de la biodiversidad de su finca y él siempre está añadiendo otro cultivos y variedades nuevas e innovadoras.

Javier empezó JSM Organics hace cuatro años (2012) por sólo él mismo, con un acre de tierra en Royal Oaks (cerca de Watsonville), CA. El negocio ha crecido de manera exponencial. Él tiene más de veinte empleados y cultiva sobre cuarenta y seis acres. Él espera que comprar un terreno qué lo daré él un total de cien acres de terreno cultivable para su finca. Uno de sus metas con este compra es de proveer parcelas pequeñas de cinco o diez acres a otro productores. “Hay muchos productores ahí que necesitan cinco o diez acres, pero no pueden conseguir los porque no están disponible. “Hay muchos productores ahí que necesitan cinco o diez acres, pero no pueden conseguir los porque no están disponible. Si está disponible, normalmente está las empresas más grandes que oyen primeras acerca del terreno. En este caso, yo oigo de terreno que esta disponible porque siempre estoy yendo a talleres y siempre estoy hablando con personas, así es como yo conseguido los arrendamientos para esas parcelas. Si yo consigo este terreno adicional, yo podría hacer más parcelas pequeñas disponibles para otros productores pequeños en la zona.” Javier, junto con los otros productores en Santa Cruz, no son los únicos productores quien tienen problemas de conseguir terreno, esta es una problema global. Como más y más corporaciones adquirir el terreno cultivable, menos terreno está disponible para los productores pequeños.

Javier ha estado trabajando con David Mancera, un consejero de Kitchen Table Advisors, por casi un año. David ha estado proveyendo orientación ejecutiva a Javier, de cómo acceder a los mercados, capital y manejar el movimiento de caja. Kitchen Table Advisors ha tenido un rol importante de ayudando Javier trabajar hacia este compra de terreno cultivable. “David ha estado ayudándome mucho con FarmLink—especialmente ahora que estamos tratando de comprar esta propiedad. Él me ayuda a entender cuando necesito hacer algunas cosas, siempre me apuntando hacia la dirección que debo que ir. Pienso que me encajo muy bien con KTA porque soy de la misma manera. Gente vienen a mí por dirección o consejos o cuando ellos necesitan algunas cosas y yo siempre puedo ayudar, a dar instrucciones a donde pueden encontrar lo que necesitan o puedo ayudar ellos acabar las varias cosas. Estoy orgulloso de estar parte de esa comunidad.” Aunque Javier, solo ha estado trabajando con KTA formalmente por un año, Javier lo conocía Anthony Chang (fundador y director ejecutivo de KTA) cuando él primero comenzado su finca. Anthony, quien estaba trabajando por FarmLink durante eso tiempo, le ayudó Javier a recibir su primer préstamo de $5,000 en 2012. Desde entonces, Javier ha recibido préstamos de FarmLink cada año. ¡El año pasado, él recibí $200,000! Tener las personas y recursos disponible de parte de KTA y FarmLink han hecho el trabajo de Javier posible, y su finca más probable de tener éxito y de crecer sostenible. Para Kitchen Table Advisors y para David Mancera en particular, “Lo esta muy gratificante a ayudar fincas pequeñas convertirse en negocios sostenibles.”

Venga a Grazing at the Kitchen Table y conocer a Javier este 22 de septiembre desde 6.30pm hasta 9.30pm y probar las fresas hermosas de JSM Organics. Este evento estaré albergado por "Dogpatch WineWorks" en San Francisco. Compra sus boletos ahora! Sigue #GrazeAndGive2016 para noticias del evento.

Antes de “Grazing”, encuentre las fresas llenas de rayos del sol de Javier en los mercados siguiente: Facebook Farmers Market, Visa Farmers Market, US Community Center Farmers Market (Foster City), Fort Mason Farmers Market, New Leaf Market, y Bi-Rite Market.

 

Photo credit: Piccino

Photo credit: Piccino

Chef Chandler Diehl is late to the restaurant, but it’s not his fault.

Like Piccino chefs before him, his day has started with a trip to the farmers market to purchase ingredients for the day’s menu. That’s the way it rolls at Piccino -- almost all ingredients (around 98% according to Chandler) are procured locally and the same day they grace someone’s plate. And almost all of it comes from local farmers with whom the restaurant has built personal relationships since opening in 2006. Chandler’s trip that morning was simply carrying on a decade-long tradition.

Photo credit: Piccino

Photo credit: Piccino

Chandler is no stranger to the farm to table concept. While at Piccino less than a year, he’s worked for several years at various restaurants in San Diego and Napa Valley that purchase from local farms. He particularly enjoys the relationships he builds with producers and experimenting with the fresh ingredients they send his way. “The variety and volume of ingredients available year-round in the San Francisco Bay Area are a chef’s dream,” according to Chandler, who is originally from Los Angeles and trained at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) Greystone in Napa Valley.

Chandler is excited to represent Piccino at Grazing at the Kitchen Table. He finds it inspiring to be part of a community of likeminded people who are just as passionate as Piccino is about fresh food and celebrating the farmers who are so crucial to the entire food system. “Grazing at the Kitchen Table is more than another charity event -- it’s much deeper,” he says.

Fresh and local is who we are at Piccino. It’s important to us to support our farmers and to know the journey our ingredients have taken, even if it means paying a little more to do that. Almost everything we prepare comes from farmers with whom we have personal relationships — something that is highlighted at Grazing at the Kitchen Table.
— Chef Chandler Diehl
Photo credit: Piccino

Photo credit: Piccino

In celebration of the season’s bounty, Chandler is planning a simple but flavorful dish to present at Grazing at the Kitchen Table. He is currently envisioning a mix of shelling beans topped with an heirloom tomato purée, bread crumbs, and cheese (as with many dishes; however, this is based on the quality and availability of local ingredients).

When asked to share about his favorite dish on Piccino’s menu at the moment, there was no hesitation in his response. “The braised octopus. It’s responsibly caught, served with marbled potatoes, preserved lemons, paprika, and cilantro.”

To follow up on Chandler’s menu recommendation, visit Piccino in its charming little corner of Dogpatch, and, of course, check out their offerings at Grazing at the Kitchen Table, where Chandler will be joined by Piccino pastry chef Daniel Saravia.

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.

We’re so lucky to be partnering with some amazing, Bay Area chefs who are passionate about the farmers producing the fresh, sustainable ingredients they use for their menus. With our event, Grazing at the Kitchen Table, only a few weeks away, I sat down with Chef Rebecca Boice from Zuni Café, who is excited to be contributing to this year’s delectable spread at Grazing.

Zuni Café has been an institution in San Francisco since its founding in 1979. The restaurant won the James Beard Foundation’s award for “Outstanding Restaurant” in 2003.

It was an honor to speak with Rebecca, who told me about Zuni’s commitment to working with farmers to create delicious meals, her favorite menu items this summer, and why she’s a Kitchen Table Advisors fan.

Megan: What brings you to Grazing at the Kitchen Table?

Rebecca: My colleague Gabriela from Cala told me about working with you guys on this really wonderful event. [This is] an organization that I think is necessary. It takes one skill set to be a good farmer, but it’s another skill set to be a good business person. So often, the focus is on the farming and producing the beautiful crops and heirloom varieties, but then there’s the business side that’s really difficult to navigate. So, to have a resource like Kitchen Table Advisors to help these farms be good, sound businesses producing this wonderful produce -- it’s an important role. That’s what interested me about the group.

Megan: Why is supporting small, local farms important to Zuni?

Rebecca: I feel like I say this often, but we can’t do what we do if we don’t have great relationships with farmers that do what they do -- which is growing this beautiful produce and providing us with the ingredients we need to make the menus that we make. Our philosophy here is that we want to use what’s feasible, what’s local, and the best example of a tomato or an eggplant or a squash. If folks aren’t producing that, then we can’t put that on our menu. My personal philosophy is that if I get a perfect tomato, I don’t want to stand in the way of letting it just be perfect and let nature do its thing. Farming is not an easy business and there’s a lot of upfront costs that I imagine would be really challenging. The more help farms can get to be financially viable and sustainable is just as important as whether they’re harvesting their produce sustainably. They still have to be a sustainable business as well.

Megan: What kind of philosophy do you convey through your food?

Photo credit: Rebecca Boice

Photo credit: Rebecca Boice

Rebecca: Zuni Café has been around for 36 plus years, and the idea of eating locally and sustainably has been the driving force, or philosophy, that Chef Judy Rogers really brought with her. That’s just what we do here -- the style of cooking that’s simple but very thoughtful. It’s doing these things with care, and that starts with working with farmers who really take time and care with the produce and the products that they bring us. We’re also training our cooks [how to] recognize and handle these wonderful ingredients.

Megan: What do you think that a gathering like Grazing means to our local food community?

Rebecca: It gives an opportunity for people to come and see these things in action -- the connection between farmers and the restaurants and how it all works together; that they don’t just operate independently. It gives a forum for the farmers to highlight their ingredients, chefs to highlight the ways in which they’re using [them, and] celebrating this wonderful produce that we’re super spoiled in the Bay Area to have access to. [It’s] a way to come together and see how different chefs interpret and use ingredients in different ways. That’s what’s great about the Bay Area -- there’s so much access to all this great food on different levels and different stages in the supply chain.

Megan: Which seasonal dish on the Zuni menu are you most excited about right now?

Rebecca: It changes every day! Tomatoes are all over the place right now. We did a lovely tomato crostini last night, with marble-striped tomatoes, a little house-cured bacon, balsamic mayonnaise, and fresh herbs. It was such a classic, comfort thing. We had fun with that. Also, we’ve been getting really beautiful grapes. We prepared roasted grapes with radicchio and honey –- a fun premise that we’ve been playing around with. When we make our menu, it changes every day. We get to fall in love with certain preparations and set-ups, and tease out all the different options. Then something new comes into season and we start playing around with that [ingredient].

Experience Chef Boice's wonderful creativity on the plate this September 22nd, 2016 from 6.30pm to 9.30pm during Grazing at the Kitchen Table. The event will be hosted at Dogpatch WineWorks in San Francisco. Tickets are on sale now--don't wait to reserve your seat! Follow #GrazeAndGive2016 for updates.

If you asked the Markegards how many members are in their family, they’d likely say that there are more than just the six of them. With their growing community of customers, collaborators, and champions, their family is, in fact, quite a large one. Erik, Doniga, Lea, Larry, Quill, and Quince make up the six behind Markegard Family Grass-fed, a Certified Grass-fed and Grass-finished ranching operation located in San Mateo and Sonoma counties. Maintaining a deep respect for both their animals and the land they graze, the Markegards are committed to a holistic grassland management approach that captures soil carbon and supports natural habitats. Integral to this approach are their animals—cattle, sheep, chickens, and pigs—which they view as equal to themselves. Being born, raised, and processed locally, the Markegards care for their animals from birth through death, ensuring a compassionate journey on the land that sustains them.

The Markegards’ love for the land began with husband and wife, Erik and Doniga. As a sixth generation cattle rancher, Erik grew up raising cattle alongside his father in San Mateo County. Doniga, with a nature and Permaculture background, was driven to ranching by her passion for rangeland restoration. Together with their children, the Markegards have grown their operation to 8,000 acres of leased land throughout the Bay Area. This expanse of ranchlands has enabled them to implement grazing practices that follow the natural herd patterns of the original inhabitants of the land—elk and antelope. Through multiple partnerships with land trusts, private landowners, and regional open space parks—one among them being Kitchen Table Advisors partner and Grazing sponsor, Peninsula Open Space Trust—the Markegards’ extended family has been instrumental to realizing this form of stewardship. On the horizon for Markegard Family Grass-Fed is an even greater investment: land ownership. Since January, Kitchen Table Advisors has been supporting them in this endeavor by providing advising on financial management and capital fundraising.

Markegard Family Grass-fed

Markegard Family Grass-fed

The Markegards’ unwavering commitment to regenerative agriculture is reflected in their high quality, GMO-free meats, eggs, and milk. With no grain or antibiotics ever introduced into the animals’ diets, the Markegard customer family is truly eating off the land. Their offering of wholesome food isn’t only limited to meat, however. Through a multi-farm CSA collaboration with City Bees and fellow Kitchen Table Advisors client and featured Grazing farm, Fifth Crow Farm, the Markegards broaden their offerings to include organic produce and honey.

To complement what the Markegards bring to the table, they host events, tours, and workshops that expose visitors to closing the loop of natural systems through sustainable grassland management. This September, the Markegards will share their reverence for the land at one community gathering that we’re especially excited about—our very own Grazing at the Kitchen Table. Providing the meats for our chefs to prepare and our guests to enjoy, we are honored to count Markegard Family Grass-fed as part of our family.

Join the Markegard family this September 22nd, 2016 from 6.30pm to 9.30pm during Grazing at the Kitchen Table. The event will be hosted at Dogpatch WineWorks in San Francisco. Tickets are on sale now--don't wait to reserve your seat! Follow #GrazeAndGive2016 for updates.

 

Photo credit: Jayson Carpenter

Photo credit: Jayson Carpenter

“I was a chubby baby, fated by food,” says Laurence Jossel, Executive Chef of Nopa. “Food has been a soothing thing [for me] from the beginning.” Food shifted from source of comfort to career when Laurence became a dishwasher at age 14, eager to earn money for his first car. From there, he was hooked. “I loved the adrenaline; putting money in my pocket.”

Photo credit: Jayson Carpenter

Photo credit: Jayson Carpenter

Laurence’s connection to food deepened as he shifted from washer to busser, waiter, cook, and eventually chef. “I’m in the business of delicious,” he says, “There’s something about super fresh and direct.” Laurence explains that going straight to the source and cooking with regional ingredients isn’t just about achieving optimal flavor; it’s also about karma. “I don’t have to worry about the negativity that is sometimes part of the long chain of food when I work directly with someone who has insight into when and how it was picked.”

He notes that the pride in these relationships goes both ways:  “The farmers will be proud of what we put on the table.” Education is another mutually beneficial part of these relationships. Laurence gives farmers tips on how to cook what they’re growing, and they introduce him to new varieties. His latest discovery: the Momo tomato.

Further supporting the work of small farmers by taking part in Grazing at the Kitchen Table was a no-brainer for Laurence. "[They are] the core of our food. Small farmers farm with intention. [At Nopa], we shop with intention and cook with intention."

Laurence works with over 80 farms a year at Nopa. There’s no place he’d rather do it. “I have such access in this place and time. I think this is the zenith of cooking in the world. All I do is try not to screw it up.”

Experience Chef Jossel's delicious creations this September 22nd, 2016 from 6.30pm to 9.30pm during Grazing at the Kitchen Table. The event will be hosted at Dogpatch WineWorks in San Francisco. Tickets on sale starting Tuesday, July 19--don't wait to reserve your seat! Follow #GrazeAndGive2016 for updates.

The RSF Social Finance family

The RSF Social Finance family

In a local food system, there is a network of people that are vital to the creation of what we eat. Last week, we introduced you to POST's work in farmland preservation, offering Peninsula farmers a place to do what they do best--grow food. Today, we turn to another important part of our local food network--financing. Returning for their second year, Grazing at the Kitchen Table Sponsor RSF Social Finance invests in local food infrastructure with a vision of cultivating a more sustainable and equitable food system. Senior Lending Manager Kate Danaher offers a glimpse into RSF's mission-aligned investment approach and shares her excitement to connect with our Bay Area food community at Grazing.

RSF Social Finance is dedicated to transforming the way the world works with money. We strive to change the conventional financial and philanthropic system to one that is direct, transparent, and personal in its relationship with people. Originally founded in 1936 as the Rudolf Steiner Foundation, RSF offers lending, investing, and giving opportunities that support social enterprises addressing key issues in the areas of food and agriculture, education and the arts, and ecological stewardship.

At RSF, we are intentional in our approach to recreate the food system into one that is equitable and just. Our investment strategy focuses on strengthening local food infrastructure, which provides many benefits, including greater access to otherwise unreached markets for small-scale farmers in the Kitchen Table Advisors community. In Northern California, our financial and giving work has resulted in the expansion of social enterprises like Veritable Vegetable, an organic produce distributor and fellow Grazing 2016 Sponsor.

Our greatest hope is to build a system where small to medium-sized food producers can grow and make delicious food with integrity. This new system will be characterized by compassion and interdependence with consumers who have a stake in its success.

Like the farmers and chefs who attend Grazing, we are committed to changing the paradigm of the food system. There is a yearning for more connection to both each other, and the earth that provides us with so much. At Grazing, this connection is palpable through the amazing community that comes together from all parts of the food system. The evening is made for meeting as many people as possible, and joining a variety of conversations. It's such a dynamic experience!

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 go on sale in July. Follow #GrazeAndGive2016 for updates.

Photo credit: Teddy Miller

Photo credit: Teddy Miller

Grazing at the Kitchen Table, our annual fundraiser and gathering, provides us with the very unique opportunity to bring together food system changemakers to celebrate our collective work. One such trailblazing organization, and Grazing Sponsor, in our community is the Peninsula Open Space Trust. At Kitchen Table Advisors, we value POST’s mission to protect precious farmland on the Peninsula. For many of our small farmers, POST’s work is vital to their ability to access land for growing beautiful food that feeds our region. We invite you to learn more about POST's vision for preserving Bay Area farmland from POST staff member Matt Dolkas.

The story of the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) began in 1977, when a small group of citizens founded the organization to protect the open spaces, farms and parklands in and around Silicon Valley. Since that time, POST has protected over 75,000 acres of land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. Most of that land has been transferred to regional, state, county or national parks. Once protected, we then work to keep the natural values of the land intact for future generations of people and wildlife. Our success as an organization is a testament to the vision of our founders and the commitment of our community to protect the places we all know and love.

Photo credit: Teddy Miller

Photo credit: Teddy Miller

Since our founding, POST has been committed to preserving farmland on the Peninsula and keeping it in production. Like Kitchen Table Advisors, we too see the need for thriving farms that produce healthy food for our region. On the farmland we own, we offer farmers long-term agricultural leases and invest in agricultural improvement projects to ensure the operators have the tools needed for success.

We know that there is more to be done in this area. This is made clear by the alarming rate at which we are losing local farmland--most notably the 35% loss of farmland San Mateo County has experienced in the past 30 years. That’s why in spring of 2016 we launched our Farmland Futures Initiative, a $25 million campaign to triple the number of protected farmland acres and farms on the San Mateo coast in the next ten years.

Our hopes are that, with our Farmland Futures Initiative, we can work to protect the remaining prime soil acres on the San Mateo coast. We want to see this land, and the farmland that we’ve already protected, continue to nourish our communities. We aim to support the next generation of farmers growing robust and sustainable operations. They’re some of the best stewards of the land and empowering their operations is how we can build healthy soils, maintain wildlife habitat and sources of locally grown food. These are the ingredients that make the Peninsula such a special place to live.

Photo credit: Peninsula Open Space Trust

Photo credit: Peninsula Open Space Trust

POST’s vision of the land and the future of our communities is shared among a vibrant group of local changemakers, one among them being Kitchen Table Advisors. In the future, we see a robust regional food system stewarded by thoughtful, dedicated farmers who care about the health of the land for their livelihoods and for its role in the greater ecosystem. POST has a unique role in helping create this vision. We’re committed to the land, to the hard-working farmers who maintain it and to the future of this amazing place.

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 go on sale in July. Follow #GrazeAndGive2016 for updates.

Bay Area farm: Fifth Crow Farm

Bay Area farm: Fifth Crow Farm

Founded in 2008 by a trio of recent UCSC Farm & Garden program grads, Fifth Crow Farm is a young business with big ambitions. Those ambitions extend beyond the farm itself, as partners John Vars, Mike Irving, and Teresa Kurtak operate with long-term sustainability in mind.

What started with a shoestring budget has become a prolific enterprise in its own right. The Pescadero-based farm consists of 80 acres of land: 30 acres of row crops, an apple orchard, a young pear orchard, and 350 heritage-breed, pastured hens. The team’s 50 plus crops include 24 varieties of apples, leafy greens, squash, root veggies, beans, berries, flowers, and much more. This diversity is more than just a boon to Fifth Crow Farm’s dedicated customers, including a 200-member CSA; it’s a conscious decision to avoid mono-cropping.  

Bay Area farm: Fifth Crow Farm

Bay Area farm: Fifth Crow Farm

Sustainability is the farm’s guiding principle. Certified Organic by California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF), they utilize compost, cover crops, and organic fertilizers to keep things humming. Mobile chicken coops mean both healthy birds and healthy soil for future crops. Crop rotation, exclusion (netting), and beneficial insects offer ecosystem-friendly alternatives to synthetic pesticides. The team has even partnered with the FDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to provide habitat and travel corridors for beneficial insects and pollinators, and establish energy- and water-efficient irrigation systems. 

Supporting the community — including those who work the land — is another part of this sustainable mindset. “They care deeply about helping build resilient local food systems, building community, and connecting people to where their food comes from,” says their Advisor Anthony Chang. “And they take really seriously their responsibility in running their business with integrity -- offering year round employment to many of their employees, paying them a good wage, and contributing to a scholarship fund for the children of farmworkers in Pescadero.”

Running a farm that’s socially just, ecologically sound, and economically viable is no small feat. Challenges, often unexpected, arise every day. Just this month, the team’s ailing water pump gave out, which meant postponing plans for five acres of quinoa. In true farmer spirit, they adapted, armed with the knowledge that their nascent potatoes can be dry farmed since they were sown with sufficiently saturated soil.

Often, the obstacles aren’t weather or equipment woes, but the everyday challenges of running a business. That’s where Kitchen Table Advisors comes in. KTA has been working with Fifth Crow Farm since 2013, providing business planning, financial management, and organizational development mentorship. Perhaps most importantly, KTA has acted as a sounding board for their ever-evolving plans, and connected them with resources and tools to help them thrive. Today, Fifth Crow Farm is part of KTA’s new alumni program.

Bay Area farm: Fifth Crow Farm

Bay Area farm: Fifth Crow Farm

It’s been inspiring to watch the team grow — their farm, community, and families. In 2013, farmer John and his wife Maggi welcomed daughter Naima to the farm the same day that farmers Mike and Teresa (partners in business and marriage) greeted son Charlie. No doubt, they are tilling that soil for Naima and Charlie. “They are stewarding the land for future generations,” says Anthony. “They are growing healthy food for my family and our communities. And they are building businesses with values where people and planet come first.” 

Come taste Fifth Crow Farm's beautiful meat and produce this September 22nd, 2016 from 6.30pm to 9.30pm during Grazing at the Kitchen Table. The event will be hosted at Dogpatch WineWorks in San Francisco. Tickets go on sale in July. Follow #GrazeAndGive2016 for updates.

Photo credit: Jonathan Fong

Photo credit: Jonathan Fong

Our chefs for Grazing at the Kitchen Table are an incredibly passionate and generous group of people that share a similar value set to the farm clients with whom we work. They are deeply committed to making positive change in our food system, seeing far beyond the bottom line of their businesses. Going to the farmers markets, educating and investing in their staff, and curating delicious and warm experiences for their guests are among the heartfelt ways that they express their commitment to a local and sustainable food system.

Recently, I had the pleasure of hearing one of our Grazing chefs, Laurence Jossel of Nopa, speak at a CUESA event. (Laurence participated in our first Grazing last year and has graciously agreed to join us again this September.) During the CUESA presentation, I listened to Laurence describe how he views his role as being an ambassador of the farmers he supports. He visits a farmers market almost everyday and falls in love with all the glorious fruit, vegetables, and proteins, which he then brings back to his staff at the restaurant. For him, it is important that his staff cultivates authentic connections to the farmers so they are able to understand and convey the work and commitment of their growers. This connection is nurtured at NOPA through field trips and farm dinners for staff. In between these farm visits, Laurence encourages his staff’s engagement with local ingredients right at the back door of Nopa. When nectarines are ripe and ready, Laurence can’t help but bring a few cases back from the market for the whole team to taste the season, one juicy bite at a time.

As Laurence demonstrates, our chefs play a precious role in honoring the work of our farmers by thoughtfully preparing their ingredients and allowing them to shine on the plate. During Grazing, they create the fare that brings the entire evening together for our community of donors, volunteers, and champions. What this offers to our guests is connection—to the farmer, to the chef, to each other, and to ourselves.

It is truly an inspiring and delicious evening, leaving you feeling connected to all the people and flavors in the room and amazed that the meal was crafted completely in alignment with your values.

Thinking about what these chefs contribute to Grazing, I am extremely grateful for their talents and resources. Time and again at Kitchen Table Advisors, we are reminded that people are our most important asset and relationships matter. Owing to this beautiful community of ours, which is always expanding with new relationships, we are fortunate to gather together our Grazing chefs. With each chef introduction, our extended Kitchen Table Advisors family grows with new changemakers. This September at Grazing, I invite you all to come meet our community of chefs—including Chandler and Daniel from Piccino, Laurence from Nopa, Gabriela from Cala, Rebecca from Zuni Café, Sophina from Calavera, Aaron from Petit Crenn, Dennis from Namu Gaji, and Cortney and Nick from Bar Tartine—and taste the connection to our farmers.

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 go on sale in July. Follow #GrazeAndGive2016 for updates.

From all corners of food in the Bay Area, 300 people came together to enjoy delectable farmer-chef collaborations on the plate alongside locally produced wines and brews. This is what took place last October when we hosted our first large community gathering and fundraiser: Grazing at the Kitchen Table. To say the least, it was a magical evening of food, conviviality, and momentous support for the farmers that we advise. We didn’t give it a second thought in deciding to host our second annual gathering of Grazing on September 22nd, 2016. To whet your appetite for this year’s event, our very own Pei-Yee Woo, Kitchen Table Advisors’ Associate Director, shares her reflections on last year’s gathering in addition to her excitement and anticipation for what’s ahead.

Grazing brings people together from all parts of the community. What does this gathering of people represent?

Kitchen Table Advisors has such a vibrant and diverse community of supporters who all care deeply about the long-term success of our region’s small farms, and are working to create positive change in various aspects of our local food system. However, it’s not often that they’re all in the same space together. Grazing is an opportunity for us to (re)connect and engage with one another by bringing these individuals and businesses together, all while enjoying delicious food from our clients and some of the city’s best chefs.  

What does Grazing mean for the farmers that Kitchen Table Advisors support?

One of the ways we support our clients in building thriving farm businesses is increasing their access to markets. For our farmers who provide food for Grazing, it’s a chance to introduce their brand and products to both eaters and chefs. This community of eaters cares about good food and, as a result of meeting our farmers at Grazing, may begin visiting their farmers market stands. For the participating chefs and restaurants, after working with the farmers’ products, they may decide to continue purchasing from them in the future so they can serve their produce or meats in their own restaurants.

And then, of course, Grazing is a fundraiser for Kitchen Table Advisors. When guests purchase a ticket to the event, bid on an auction item, or make a donation, they are making a commitment to fueling the long-term economic viability of our farmers. These are important resources that help ensure our farmers are able to continue growing amazing food for our communities while stewarding the land for generations to come.  

What are you most looking forward to about this year’s edition of Grazing?

There are so many things! Last year was our very first Grazing and we were blown away by the enthusiasm and support in addition to how beautifully everything came together. Our team is hard at work crafting another fantastic experience, so I’m looking forward to spending another evening in a room full of wonderful people and tasty food.

I am also eager to reconnect with long-time friends of the organization as well as get to know new people who are just discovering our work. People are one of the most important aspects of this organization and I love hearing everyone’s personal story about what brought them to us and Grazing.

At the end of the day, I’m most excited about the food. I cannot wait to see what our participating chefs create from our clients’ products!

What do you hope Grazing guests take away from the evening?

I hope our guests leave Grazing with bellies full of delicious, nourishing food, minds that are inspired by this community that is building a sustainable and just food system, and hearts and hands that are excited to join us in helping our small farms thrive.     

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 go on sale in July. Follow #GrazeAndGive2016 for updates.