by Erick O’Donnell, Ukiah Daily Journal 12/23/16
The Good Farm Fund, an agricultural grant program sponsored by North Coast Opportunities, awarded $20,000 worth of grants this week to 14 small farms throughout Mendocino County.
The grants will fund small infrastructure projects that will allow farmers to increase food production and, hence, revenue and profit, helping them to overcome steep economic obstacles on their way to self-sufficiency, said Caroline Radice, who sits on the program’s steering and grant committees.
With high land prices, farmers face a high barrier to entry, and the cost of investing in capacity-building projects can further impede the ability of small farmers to establish themselves in the capital-intensive business of agriculture, she said.
The Good Farm Fund will fully bankroll some projects and partially fund others, with matching grants or financing from other sources, she said. Members of the grant committee were reluctant to let any projects go without financial support, so they decided to spread funds over as many projects as they could while ensuring other funding sources would cover the shortfalls, ultimately approving grants for 14 out of the 16 projects, she said.
Fortunate Farm in Caspar will get $3,000 for a new, larger greenhouse, a piece of infrastructure that that can dramatically increase a farm’s yield and which farmers have shown more interest in this season, Radice said. The farm is participating in the Food Hub, another NCO project that helps farmers sell to a local wholesale market, and a larger greenhouse will enable it to meet its production goals and satisfy retailer demand through that network, she said.
Cinnamon Bear Farm in Ukiah will get $1,242 for a low-tunnel hoop house, a long, cylindrical, transparent structure that works like a greenhouse but is placed over a row of crops in a field. That piece of equipment will allow the farm to grow a greater variety of crops earlier and later in the season, she said.
Carson & Bees, which tends hives of honey bees throughout the county, will use its $1,500 award to buy honeycomb frames and use them to divide its growing hives, establishing new colonies. The hives produce honey and are also used by other farmers to pollinate their pear and apple orchards.
The project submitted by Russian Creek Farms is an excellent example of beneficial community impact, one of several criteria used by the grant committee to evaluate applications, Radice said. Owner Ben Wolff supplies the corner store with fresh produce, creating an oasis in the “food desert” of Potter Valley, which lacks a grocery store, she said.
Russian Creek Farms will use the $3,200 it was awarded to erect a fence, creating acres of usable pasture and farmland for growing vegetables, Radice said. The increased production will enable Wolff to contribute about 50 percent more produce to the local food economy, she said.
It also helps preserve the rural character of Mendocino County, Cratty said.
“You’re also preserving the only way we can keep open, beautiful space around us,” he said. If, “you want to live in a rural area with beautiful open space, you need creative ways to keep farmers farming.”
The farmers, food vendors and local-food advocates who run the fund are hoping to make more substantial investments in community agriculture in the future, Radice said. The program this time had about three times as much money to disburse as last year, its first, and organizers are hoping that its reputation will lure more donations for 2017, enabling it to award grants of between $7,500 and $10,000, she said. With grants of that size, farmers could make much more significant capital upgrades, drilling wells, buying tractors and building structures for processing their food, Radice said.
By Sarah Reith, The Mendocino Voice, 12/14/16
MENDOCINO Co. 12/14/2016 — Textures ranged from crunchy to creamy at a local farm to fork extravaganza last week. The roasted veggies, from seven local farms, provided a rainbow of flavors and hues. The salad dish, from Floodgate Farms, was a delectable color study, with its warm yellow flowers and mix of cool green.
And then there was the slow-roasted pork, which may have been a fierce-looking boar just a few days prior to its appearance at this elegant event. Now it got along most agreeably with thick green chimichurri sauce and heirloom corn polenta, which was flavored with apples, honey, and mushrooms both wild and tame.
The Good Farm Fund winter feast on December 8 at Barra Winery in Redwood Valley had something for everyone, from foodies to survivalists.
The event was a fundraiser for grants for small farmers and the CalFresh match program. The first program, the Good Farm Fund, helps bring the food to the market, and the second helps to sell it, providing between $15 and $30 in matching funds to CalFresh recipients who shop at local farmers markets. Scott Cratty, president of the Mendocino County Farmers Market Association, explained that this program was “so cool and good, the government started to support it.” He added that the match program is “the best thing since sliced bread.”
That sliced bread would probably be farm fresh bread made with flour from the Mendocino Grain Project, since Cratty is also the co-founder of the non-profit Good Farm Fund, which is set to give out $20,000 worth of grants to local small farmers in the coming year. “If you grow broccoli, you get no subsidy,” Cratty explained. “But if you grow corn syrup” to make sweetener for unhealthy beverages, “you get a big subsidy.” Given the high land prices in Mendocino County and the lack of subsidies for broccoli-growers, he said, “at the end of the year, you’re probably on food stamps yourself.”
The dinner, with 160 ticketed guests, sold out a full day in advance. The menu read like a who’s who of local cuisine and small organic farmers, from small-scale operations to larger business efforts. Baguettes made with flour from the Mendocino Grain Project, near Ukiah, were adorned with chicken liver pate from Sisters’ Ridge Farm in Redwood Valley, cheese from Pennyroyal Farm in Boonville, and onion jam from Irene’s Garden in Laytonville. The Grange School of Adaptive Agriculture provided pumpkins for pies made by Kemmy’s, and North Coast Brewing Co. donated beer.
Bridget Harrington, co-owner of Patrona’s, a farm to fork gourmet eatery in Ukiah, told the crowd that supporting local farmers was an easy decision in uncertain times. “Help farmers grow, help the county grow,” she reasoned, adding that locally grown organic produce appeals to foodies, who are interested in produce that is “at the pinnacle of flavor,” as well as survivalists, who worry that “sooner or later, those trucks from Safeway won’t come up the 101 — there are three fundamental needs, and food is one of them.”
By Monday, Cratty had rough numbers from the event, which has grown each of the three years it’s taken place. He estimated the net take at about $12,000 or $13,000, though he still had to make his way through a few invoices. Thompson’s Party Rental supplied 200 plates, but with the 160 ticketed guests, plus kitchen staff, volunteers, and band members, he said, “we blew through the plates and had to feed the band and a few other people out of to-go boxes.” The recipients of the coming year’s grants have not yet been decided on, but for next year’s winter feast, Cratty hopes to announce the winners at the event and highlight their accomplishments.
By Erick O’Donnell, Ukiah Daily Journal 10/12/16
North Coast Opportunities, the sponsor of the Good Farm Fund, has so far been fielding inquiries from prospective applicants at a greater rate than last year, said John Bailey, NCO’s representative and a member of the grant committee. The application period opened Oct. 1 and will close at the end of the month.
Bailey attributed the greater interest, from both donors and prospective applicants, to the success of last year’s program, which awarded a total of $7,000 to nine small farms across Mendocino and Lake counties, enabling them to acquire drought-sensitive irrigation supplies, a computer, and a chicken brooder, among other equipment that helped farmers to scale up their operations. The organization has up to $20,000 to award this year.
By funding small capital purchases, the program’s founders and organizers hope to provide local farmers with a foundation on which to build a more productive, economically robust engine for local and environmentally sustainable agriculture. The fund’s leaders ultimately envision a self-supporting regional community of growers, vendors and consumers who can feed themselves while preserving its resources and supporting jobs.
Small-scale farmers hoping to grow their operations face a number of obstacles, including the high cost of land, stiff competition from larger growers, unpredictability, lack of expertise, and—crucially—limited access to capital, said Bailey and other people involved in the fund. Finding a lender willing to invest in a farm with only a few acres and little equipment is among the biggest hurdles to reaching a level of self-supporting profitability, they said.
“As far as I know, you just can’t do it,” said Michael Foley, whose Green Uprising Farm received $785 from the fund last year to purchase hand tools. The farm, which uses the tools in a “no till” method of farming that prevents soil erosion and preserves helpful organisms living in the soil, would not have been able to find a lender to finance the relatively small investment, at least on reasonable terms, he said.
“It’s just too small scale,” Foley said. “You can get a loan, but the interest is pretty steep.”“Not a good idea if you’re trying to minimize costs on a little bit of farming,” he added.
Nor can small-scale farmers get the investment capital they need solely from revenue, which makes community organization and self-support necessary, said Scott Cratty, a co-founder of the fund and the general manager of the Mendocino County Farmers’ Market Association. The Good Farm Fund is meant to lift farmers out of a “Catch-22,” in which the problems of inadequate capital and minimal revenue reinforce one another.
“The more a farm has to offer, the better they do, but you can’t offer more unless you have a bigger customer base giving you more money,” Cratty said.
Local farmers’ markets have struggled to attract more customers and have failed to increase their market share in recent years, Cratty said. With a stagnant revenue base, independent farmers struggle to make a living, let alone invest in greater production, he said.
“No matter how hard you work as a food farmer—as opposed to an intoxicant farmer—if you’re pretty dang talented at it and good at marketing, you can make a living, but just a living,” he said, adding that many local farmers rely on food stamps.
Fund officials aspire to catalyze a network of small-scale, sustainable food production and distribution in which the costs of and opportunities for doing business are aligned with the community’s nutritional, environmental and economic needs.
The mainstream food economy heavily favors large growers, and capitalizing independent farmers is a hopeful step toward fostering a community with strong personal ties between farmers and the consumers whose nutritional and environmental interests they would be trusted to safeguard, the fund officials said.
In the mainstream national food market, varieties of produce are selected not for their nutritional content but for their ability to stay fresh while hauled long distances, Bailey said. In a more locally oriented market, growers and consumers could focus on other priorities, he said.
“Small farmers will be able to give us a broader diversity of nutritious and flavorful food,” Bailey said.
They would also be better stewards of the land than many large-scale agricultural operations, Bailey said. In a distribution network where vendors hold their local suppliers to environmental standards, farmers would have a greater incentive to practice crop rotation, rotational grazing, and other methods that leave the soil intact, he said.
Bailey contrasted such environmentally conscious farmers with some vegetable and fruit growers in the Central Valley who, driven by ruthless economic pressures, repeatedly plant a single crop season after season, depleting the soil and leaving it vulnerable to blow away
The Good Farm Fund is excited to host its Third Annual Winter Feast on Thursday, Dec. 8 from 5 to 9 p.m.
This year’s farm-to-table dinner will be held at Barra of Mendocino Event Center at 7051 N. State St. in Redwood Valley, and will feature locally raised meat, produce, cheese, grain, beer, wine and cider.
There will also be live music by The Thin Air String Band — known for its jazzy/West Coast-punkgrass style — and a silent auction packed with unique local items ideal for holiday giving.
This dinner is back by popular demand after selling out last year. Attendees proclaimed it a highlight of the holiday season, with plenty of feel-good cheer and an abundance of local food and drink to enjoy at an affordable price.
“This dinner is about celebrating all the hard work that farmers do throughout the year and the customers who support us,” says Caroline Radice of Black Dog Farm & Catering, one of the event coordinators. “The best way to do that is enjoy delicious local food together, while raising funds to help local farms expand.”
Radice and her husband, Jason Pluck, cater the event with the help of many volunteers. Vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free meal options will be available.
Proceeds will go toward the Good Farm Fund’s small grant program for local farms, as well as the Ukiah Farmers Market Food Stamp Match program, which makes nutritious food affordable for all.
The event is sponsored by North Coast Opportunities, Inc., Mendo Lake Credit Union, First Five, Ukiah Natural Foods Co-Op, the MendoLake Food Hub, and Thompson’s Party Rentals.
In its first year, the Good Farm Fund awarded a total of $7,000 in farm grants to nine local farms. Now in its second year of accepting applications, the Good Farm Fund is poised to award $20,000 in grants.
Applications were due in October, and grant recipients will be at the dinner to talk about the critical projects that have been or will be supported by the fund.
Tickets are $30 in advance or $40 at the door; youth 15 and under are $15. Tickets can be purchased at the Westside Renaissance Market, the Mendocino Book Company, the Ukiah Farmers Market, The Spot Coffee in Redwood Valley, or online at www.goodfarmfund.org.
The Good Farm Fund is a fiscally sponsored project of NCO, a 501(c)3 Community Action Agency serving Lake and Mendocino counties.
For more information, to sign up to volunteer, or to donate items to the auction, email goodfarmfund[at]gmail.com.
“All across the country, small farmers are struggling to be sustainable financially, and community support is a realistic solution,” says event co-organizer Chef Caroline Radiche of Black Dog Farm and Catering.
Chefs Janelle Weaver and Daniel Townsend, owners of The Bewildered Pig in Philo, are serving a fresh county style pork pâté (Anderson Valley Community Farm) with minimal flavorings—thyme, white pepper, black pepper, salt and a bit of coriander—to keep the taste clean—on a crostini (Fort Bragg Bakery) topped with a choice of red onion chutney or an arugula pesto (Anderson Valley Community Farm).
“We are all about being a farm to table restaurant,” says Weaver. “There’s no other way; this is about taking responsibility for feeding yourself.”
Townsend adds, “Start a farm, grow food, eat it and share with others.”
Chef Monica Almond is putting the finishing touches on lovely little mounds of sculpted Peruvian potato purée mixed with Meyer Lemon Olive Oil (Olivino) topped with a sliver of marinated red onion, a very small square of red pepper and a dot of Ají Amarillo hot pepper sauce. She and her son Hercule cook at Terra Savia and cater for parties and private events.
Chefs Kelvin and Liz Jacobs of the Wild Fish Restaurant in Little River are serving up generous portions of sweet pink Salmon ceviche sprinkled with kale crisps (rub fresh kale with lemon, add chile, olive oil and salt; bake in high oven for 10 minutes; mix in food processor) served with a fava bean purée and a lettuce salad (Noyo Food Forest) with a side of salted tomato marinated in olive oil. The kale, tomatoes, herbs and calendula petals are from Cinnamon Bear Farm.
Wild Fish Restaurant has been farm to table for five years serving fish and vegetarian entrées.
“There’s no other way to cook than using our local food shed,” says Chef Liz.
Two of the sisters from Kemmy’s Pies stand behind a table filled with slices of strawberry rhubarb pie made with organic, locally sourced ingredients. The rhubarb comes from Hearts Desire Farm in Willits; the strawberries are from Redwood Valley; and the crust is made from flour from the Mendocino Grain Project. It is a family affair with three sisters, Brenda, Kate and Amy, and their mother Kimberly starting out eight years ago by purchasing a commercial kitchen on wheels intending to make barbecue.
A market in Laytonville wanted their pies and today they work from a remodeled kitchen at the Skunk Train Depot, that used to serve train customers, and sell 1,000 pies a week—that is, on a slow week—throughout Mendocino, Sonoma, Lake and Humboldt counties.
Chefs Radice and Jason Pluck of Black Dog Farm and Catering cook at the Little Lake Grange Kitchen, a community kitchen in Willits.
They have teamed up with Daniel Spiro, student life coordinator of the Grange School of Adaptive Agriculture, to present a plate of millet-based polenta topped with roasted chicken and sprinkled with black pepper chèvre (an acquired taste, to be sure) with a side of kale pesto.
The millet, chicken and pesto ingredients were grown at the school and the goat cheese was made at Shamrock Artisan Goat Cheese, operating since 1983. Co-owner Ana Cox describes the importance of the farm to table movement.
“It’s helping young farmers who are coming into the business; they need all the support they can get.”
Chef Fabricio Giammei of Tango Foods stands behind a large platter of boneless pork (Potter Valley Unconventional Agriculture) and a Leg of Lamb (Magruder Ranch). He uses a sprig of rosemary to top the meats with a splash of traditional Piedmontese sauce and adds a side of beets (Tequio Family Farm).
Event organizers—Scott Cratty, manager of the Ukiah Farmers Market; Sarah Bodner, local food supporter and community organizer; Bridget Harrington, chef at Patrona; Nicholas Petti, owner of Mendo Bistro and college teacher; and Radiche—spent months organizing the 19 chef and farmer pairings serving at the event.
“All the chefs volunteered, and this year we were able to pay the farmers for their produce,” says Radiche.
The Good Food Fund raised $7,000 last year and distributed the money to nine local farms helping them purchase seed stock, drought sensitive irrigation supplies, new hand tools and fencing.
“Last year’s grants were modest—anywhere from $500 to $1,200,” says Radiche. “We’ve been gathering a huge amount of community support and now have $10,000 for this year’s grant cycle. We would like to increase our impact.
“If a farmer needs to drill a well, we would like to be able to fund that. We want to support life changing purchases for these farmers,” she says.
Event sponsors include Sip! Mendocino, Yokayo Ranch, North Coast Brewing, Mendocino Winegrowers Inc., the MendoLake Food Hub and Thompson’s Party Rental.
by Kate Maxwell, Willits News, 1/29/16
“At the farm, you always have a Christmas list of one hundred things you want all the time,” said Hunter Flynn, a Willits farmer who started Tequio Community Farm with his girlfriend Isa Quiroz last year.
Flynn and Quiroz met while working for Ecology Action, a Mendocino sustainable farming organization, and now lease and farm half an acre of land from the Church of the Golden Rule at Ridgewood Ranch. Like many new farmers, the two realized that careful planning and hard work weren’t the only things limiting their farm’s growth, and even a few new tools can make a big difference.
“There was so much infrastructure to build, and it was super stressful,” Flynn explained of the farm’s first year, “but it was also a great year. Since our work is highly manual, we realized our labor efficiency was the real limit on doing more.”
Now, thanks to the Good Farm Fund, Tequio Community Farm will be purchasing brand new seeding and planting equipment, as one of nine Mendocino and Lake county farms selected for the first round of grant funding from the new non-profit organization.
Focusing on small awards to small local farms, the Good Farm Fund closed their first round of applications in December. This month, the Fund issued grants between $350 – $1,200 to assist local farmers improve their operations, with requests including irrigation equipment, seed supplies, chicken farming equipment, fence expansions, and more.
The Fund was started in 2015 with fiscal sponsorship from North Coast Opportunities as a coalition of farmers and local food advocates “to address some of the most glaring gaps in the food system.” The Fund focuses on increasing access to fresh and locally produced food, supporting small farmers, and supporting programs such as the “Market Match” program which doubles the EBT dollars used at local farmers markets.
For the farming grants, local farmers and advocates created an application process, which will vary with each grant cycle as previous recipients provide input on the selection methods and serve on the Farm Grant Committee, which is composed of local farmers with more than one year experience. The aim is to keep the funding selection connected to local farmers’ needs and to keep the process flexible, explained the Fund’s Sarah Bodnar.
This round, Mendocino and Lake county farms could apply for up to $2,500 in funds if they could demonstrate environmentally beneficial farming practices, maximizing food for local consumption, and providing affordable food for all people in the county. Applicants were required to have decision-making power, at least one year experience with local commercial food production, and be farming on less than ten acres.
For Tequio Community Farm, the new equipment purchased with the funds means Flynn and Quiroz are looking to double the area in production this year. The farm sells at the Ukiah and Fort Bragg markets, to local restaurants such Adam’s Restaurant, Patrona, and Saucy, as well as to Ecology Action and through the MendoLake Food Hub.
Although they began using half of their leased land, Flynn is confident they can begin working the entire half acre, and hopes to triple food production in their second season. He hopes to see a jump from $25,000 in market sales to $75,000 in their second year.
With the grant money, the pair plans to purchase a Jang seeder, which will help them direct seed crops with much greater efficiency and accuracy, and a “Puttiputkis” tree planter that will allow faster and easier transplanting. “I’m really excited about both of these things – they will save our backs and make us much more efficient,” said Flynn, who already began planting several weeks ago and plans to seed weekly through August. For a small farm with a three year lease, any equipment that saves time and back aches makes a big difference. “I already feel like we’re starting a hundred times ahead” of last year, Flynn elaborated.
Another grant recipient, Caroline Radice of Potter Valley’s Black Dog Farm, explained that she applied for irrigation equipment and seed stock to continue production in 2016. After farming in Mendocino for ten years —five in commercial production—Radice said she selected what equipment to apply for “out of necessity, because it was incredibly obvious what we needed to proceed with the next steps for our farm” to maximize local food production.
Radice, who also works with the North Coast Opportunity Food PREP program and with the Good Farm Fund, said she felt there was local support for local farmers, and the real challenge was assisting small farms to increase their scale of food production.
“The demand for fresh, locally grown food is very high, with farmers market customers, restaurants and grocery stores all interested in purchasing as much as our farm and other local farms can grow,” explained Radice. “We all need to be able to scale up to provide for this demand.”
Additional Good Farm Fund grant recipients include: Bob Gates Organics (Redwod Valley), $1,000 to purchase deer fencing and expand fields; Covelo Organics (Covelo), $1,200 for office equipment; Grange Farm School (Willits), $350 for chicken processing equipment; Green Uprising Farm (Willits), $785 for hand tools; Milagro Bean Collective (Upper Lake), $500 for seed stock; Noyo Food Forest (Fort Bragg), $350 for greenhouse equipment; Red Giant Farms (Fort Bragg), $1,000 for chick incubation equipment.
A fundraiser for the Good Farm Fund will take place Saturday, February 6 from 5:30 – 10 p.m. at the Little Lake Grange in Willits, 291 School Street. Musicians Sean Hayes with local favorites Charlie Crockett and Gary Traywick will be performing, with all proceeds going to support the Good Farm Fund. Tickets are $22 through Eventbrite and are available at Mariposa Market and other locations around the county.
Additional fundraisers at the Little Lake Grange will be held in March, to support the next round of small farm grants and the Market Match program.
More information about the Good Farm Fund can be found at goodfarmfund.org or on Facebook. More information about Tequio Community Farm and Black Dog Farm can be found on Facebook, and at grownlocalmendolake.com
By Chef Julia A. Kendrick Conway for Culination Magazine
Farm-to-table is a big buzzword today in the culinary and restaurant world. It seems every other menu touts a local connection, identifying ingredients by naming the farms that produce them. But how much does the trend really benefit farmers and our local food economies?
Here in the far reaches of Northern California, it has become a reality through the Good Farm Fund, which raises money to match dollar for dollar the EBT coupons used to buy fresh produce in our farmers’ markets, and runs a grant program administered by and benefiting small farmers.
The Good Farm Fund recently sponsored a fundraising dinner at a local ranch, where each farmer was paired with a local chef. 175 guests enjoyed dishes based on ingredients that were grown, raised or produced within the county. The vibrant menu was as diverse as the types of farms and farmers; carrot and beet cake with red wattle ham and summer slaw, carrots roasted with Moroccan spices and served over a carrot top salad, Thai green bean curry with coconut milk and fresh basil and peaches wrapped in pancetta and roasted.
As a caterer, we source local ingredients whenever possible, so it was a pleasure to meet with our farmer and choose what item was in abundance given the season; creating a dish that would highlight its freshness and special character. In our case, it was rainbow carrots, which were roasted within twenty four hours of picking. The carrot top salad was born of the mounds of perfectly crisp greens that remained after cleaning, which were trimmed of their stalks and tossed with vinaigrette of cranberry-pomegranate vinegar and blood orange olive oil. Each serving of carrots was plated atop the salad, allowing the subtle taste of the fresh carrots to carry though both components of the dish.
Many farmers barely scratch out a living, much like chefs, and put every ounce of their passion into what they grow. No, local products are not the cheapest, and you can’t always count on the availability of a specific item, but if you let the aromas, flavors and colors influence your menu, the results can be profitable for everyone, including the customer.
Julia Kendrick Conway is Owner and Executive Chef at Assaggiare Mendocino. She is leading a chef’s life of Farm-to-Table cuisine, while building awareness for the Good Farm Fund.
Article originally published in Culination Magazine.
By Justine Frederiksen, Ukiah Daily Journal
An event this week in Ukiah was designed to not only showcase local food producers, but hopefully garner interest in helping them succeed at a daunting task: making a living as a farmer.
“It is nearly impossible to grow food for your neighbors and make enough money to live on,” said Scott Cratty, the director of the Ukiah Farmers Market and one of the organizers of the event, Farm to Table Mendocino. “And it is next to impossible for a young farmer to succeed without a great deal of support from the community.”
The event was hosted June 24 at the Yokayo Ranch, which borders Mendocino College, and featured food grown and prepared by Mendocino County farmers and chefs, along with local wines, beer and spirits.
“A vibrant agricultural community is something worth celebrating, and great food is one of the few things we all can appreciate,” said Cratty, explaining that “farm-to-table” dinners which bring food straight from the farmers’ hands to diner’s plates are proving quite popular, but that this dinner was designed to achieve more than an appreciation for locally grown food.
“We decided to do an event that would ‘feed’ the farmers, as well,” said Cratty, referring to the fact that the proceeds of the event would go to the Good Farm Fund, which describes itself as “a community organization dedicated to providing direct support to small farmers in Mendocino and Lake Counties, and increasing local food security for all members of our community.”
After being invited to purchase tickets to the event, diners were treated to appetizers like goat cheese from Shamrock Artisan Goat Cheese of Willits and rye crackers from the Mendocino Grain Project. The small dinner plates included Thai curry green beans by Black Dog Farm of Potter Valley, a selection of cured meats from Heart Arrow Ranch in Redwood Valley, and a vegetable tapenade paired with crostini provided by Saucy and Covelo Organics.
The special guest chef was John Ash, known to many as the “Father of Wine Country Cuisine,” who said that Mendocino County “doesn’t get the credit it deserves” for all it produces, a fact he blamed on a mix of geography and reputation.
“You all are a bunch of food outlaws out here,” Ash said. “But dinners like these can be the model you use to get Mendocino on the map.”
Another way Mendocino County can be put on the map, diners were told, is if residents decide to invest in agricultural ventures. One successful model is Fortunate Farm of Caspar, which partnered with North Coast Brewing Company of Fort Bragg after the company tried to find uses for the tons of spent grain it produces every year.
“I grew up here and loved farming here, but never thought I could make a living farming here,” said Gowan Batist of Fortunate Farm, explaining that her “obsession” with spent grain led to the supportive relationship with North Coast Brewing Company, something she not only credits with giving her “my name on the deed to the farm I live and work on,” but also with “making me a better farmer.”
Another way the community can help young farmers was presented by John Kuhry, the executive director of the Economic Development and Financing Corporation, which recently launched a Direct Public Offering, which may be used to provide the infrastructure needed for a wool processing facility, or a meat processing plant.
“It will take local investments and pool that money into a loan program,” said Kuhry, describing the DPO as “investment crowd funding,” and Ukiah resident Matthew Gilbert as “the poster child for what this fund can do.”
Gilbert, a Mendocino County native who began shearing sheep when he was 12, said he has seen tons of wool go to waste in the county because it is so difficult and expensive to get it processed. He recently bought the equipment he needs to process wool locally, and was given a permit by the city to operate a mill out of his home in Ukiah.
“This project is shovel-ready; we just need enough capital to get it up and running,” Gilbert said, explaining that he cannot afford to pay the interest rates on loans offered by traditional banks.
“Our goal is to raise $250,000 for the DPO, and if we do, Matt Gilbert’s mill could become a reality,” said Sarah Bodnar, coordinator of the Farm to Table Mendocino dinner and co-founder of the Good Farm Fund.
The dinner was sponsored by The Community Foundation, The Mendocino County Farm Bureau, Leadership Mendocino, Mendocino Winegrowers, Inc., North Coast Opportunities, the Economic Development and Financing Corporation, the Mendocino County Resource Conservation District and the Mendocino Land Trust.
For more information on how to donate, call the EDFC at 467-5953, or go to goodfarmfund.org.
Original article appears here.
An upcoming Farm to Table dinner combines acclaimed chef John Ash, local restaurants paired with local farms, Mendocino wines, a historic ranch setting, the announcement of a new way to invest, and a mission. These tidbits outline the first-of-its-kind event dedicated to enhancing local agriculture by bringing together agricultural land holders interested in diversifying, community members interested in local investment, bankers, business leaders, ranchers, farmers and chefs to look at ways to pool resources.
The dinner program includes sharing stories of joint business and farm ventures such as one with North Coast Brewing Company and Fortunate Farm in Caspar, the launch of the first community-based Direct Public Offering in California, and a dine-around tasting of inspired plates at the historic Yokayo Ranch, a stunning hillside estate built in the 1920s.
“This dinner seems like the natural next step toward securing a diverse agricultural future in Mendocino County; we’ll be enjoying the best that local farms and chefs have to offer while discussing the most exciting horizons in food and farming,” says Sarah Bodnar, coordinator of the Farm to Table Mendocino dinner and Co-founder of the Good Farm Fund, which will benefit from the proceeds.
Bodnar, who along with her eat-local friend and farmer Gowan Batist, spent an entire year eating only food grown in Mendocino, has a passion for celebrating local cuisine and increasing the viability of local farms. She envisioned this dinner where the Economic Development and Financing Corporation (EDFC) would officially announce its new loan fund, which may be used to finance infrastructure for local agricultural production such as a meat or wool processing facility. John Kuhry, Executive Director of EDFC, will explain the new way locals will be able to fund such projects by investing in California’s first community-based Direct Public Offering DPO.
Chef John Ash, an internationally acclaimed food and wine educator and the former culinary director at Fetzer Vineyards, “is passionate about cooking from the source and loves Mendocino,” says Bridget Harrington, a former coworker at Fetzer and one of the organizers of the event. Harrington is the proprietress of Patrona restaurant in Ukiah, which will be paired with Redwood Valley’s Floodgate Farm for the dinner. Ash will be working with farmer Ben Wolff from Potter Valley.
The menu is currently taking shape as the weather warms and the farmer/chef teams select the farm-fresh items that they will work with. Guests will enjoy several seasonal surprises from an excellent roster of farm-friendly chefs from throughout the county.
Other restaurants, caterers and chefs paired with farmers for the dinner items include: Assaggiare Mendocino with Fortunate Farm, Caspar; Megan Katherine Swenson Catering with Shamrock Artisan Goat Cheese, Willits; Boonville General Store with Anderson Valley Community Farm, Boonville; Black Dog Catering with Black Dog Farm, Potter Valley; Chef Blaire Ladd with Live Power Community Farm, Covelo; Mac Magruder with Magruder Ranch, Potter Valley; Mendo Bistro with Parducci’s estate farm, Ukiah; Mendocino Organics with Heart Arrow Ranch, Redwood Valley; Ellery Clark Catering and Produce, Potter Valley; Pilon Kitchen with Tequio Community Farm, Willits; Saucy with Covelo Organics, Covelo; Tango Foods with Lovin’ Mama Farm, Potter Valley.
Desserts will be prepared by the Hopland Taphouse with Grilli’s Acre Ukiah; Kemmy’s Pies; and more to come.
Libations include donated wine from Mendocino Winegrowers, Inc. and hand-crafted beer from North Coast Brewing Company. In addition Black Oak Coffee will supply the coffee and American Craft Distillers will share after-dinner custom cocktails.
Mark Ruedrich the brewmaster from North Coast Brewing Company will share how his company has formed a unique partnership with Fortunate Farm. For example, the brewery provides the spent hops and other grains to the farm, which in turn grows food for the taproom restaurant.
Scott Cratty, owner of Renaissance Market in Ukiah and the manager of the Ukiah Farmers Market is one of the organizers of the Farm to Table Dinner. What does he hope will come from this event? “It will be a total success if we make a connection that eventually helps one new farmer succeed in Mendocino County or generates financing for one new flourishing local business. But even if someone just comes to eat, it will be a memorable, flavorful evening at which you will be introduced to some of Mendocino County’s most exciting farmers and chefs.”
The Farm to Table Dinner takes place on Wednesday, June 24 beginning at 5:30 p.m. with optional ranch tours. Dinner begins at 6 p.m. with the program immediately following and culminates with dessert and cocktails around the pool. For more information on this limited seating, RSVP-only event email FarmtoTableMendocino[at]gmail[dot]com.
Original article published here.