With a vision for promoting sustainability in the local food system, Paicines Ranch and Cienega Capital are a natural fit with Kitchen Table Advisors’ mission to foster economic viability of local small farms. Here, Sallie Calhoun and Esther Park share their excitement for the partnership in the upcoming fundraiser, Grazing at the Kitchen Table.
Paicines Ranch is a working ranch with pasture-fed livestock as a means for fostering native perennial grasses which sequester carbon into the soil. Owner Sallie Calhoun says she became a rancher after being introduced to the work of Allan Savory, and it has been a 14-year journey of taking one careful step after another in the right direction.
“I realized that to make the changes I wanted to see, we needed more farmers who were able to make a viable living. So it seemed natural to mobilize all my resources around the goal of regenerating the environment by changing the way we grow our food,” she says. The ranch hosts several events each year for local farmers and the general public, during which experts present best practices for soil health and regenerative farming.
Cienega Capital was formed to invest in similar strategies around soil health, regenerative agriculture, and local food systems. “Where we like to have the greatest impact is to provide finances where capital is not available, especially for new or innovative business models that support regenerative agricultural practices,” says Esther Park, who serves as the CEO. “A success for us is when we see these small enterprises grow and become strong, stable businesses.”
Inspired by Local Food
Esther believes there’s potential for the local food system, and soil, in particular, to address a lot of the challenges we have as a society - economically, socially and culturally. She points out some of the important elements: “Better agricultural practices that enable soils to do what they are supposed to do; building healthier communities by having fresh food with better quality available; and keeping our dollars in the local economy.”
The Kitchen Table Advisors Connection
Paicines Ranch and Cienega Capital committed funding during the pilot phase to help get Kitchen Table Advisors off the ground. “Technical assistance to small farmers is an area we see a great need,” says Esther, who is also a Kitchen Cabinet member, having joined the advisory board in November last year. “By partnering with Kitchen Table Advisors, we can provide both financial and technical assistance, which allows the farmers to see themselves as a business and understand their profitability and margin.”
Esther is happy to see how much the Kitchen Table Advisors community has grown. “One of the things that’s interesting to see is how many people really get it and want to see more of it happen," she enthuses. "The potential for this to be a replicable model in other areas of the country is huge.”
Hopes for Grazing at the Kitchen Table
The most important feature of the local food system, for Sallie, is the connection it creates between producers and consumers. The upcoming fundraising event is getting the duo excited about the potential of their partnership. “It’s all about connecting people with the producers of their food and giving them a better understanding of the system, its complexity and challenges, and their role in improving it,” says Sallie.
Esther agrees: “I’m really excited to see how many new folks are at ‘the table’. I love seeing the kinds of people involved in Kitchen Table Advisors; it’s such a diverse community.”
Grazing at the Kitchen Table takes place from 6.30pm to 9.30pm on Thursday, October 1st, 2015 at Dogpatch WineWorks, San Francisco. Early bird tickets are $150 and can be purchased here (available until August 27th). Click here for more info and follow #GrazeAndGive2015 for updates!