The weather was unusually cooperative at Muir Beach on Saturday, a sun-dappled day to ring in the 40th Anniversary of the Green Gulch Farm. The farm, an outpost of San Francisco’s Zen Meditation Center, has long been a champion of sustainable food and agriculture. Saturday’s fundraiser event, “Feasting in the Fields,” paid tribute to that legacy with a menu designed by Annie Somerville of Greens and a powerhouse roster of speakers.
The day began at 11:30am as guests milled about and munched on grilled zucchini and fromage blanc on crostini; Pt. Reyes blue cheese mousse on fingerling potato rounds; lettuce wraps filled with peanuts, ginger and herbs; and an array of Bellwether Farms and Cowgirl Creamery cheeses. Lemon verbena lemonade, elderflower spritzer and other non-alcoholic beverages were prepared by Mark Ellenbogen, former wine director for Slanted Door and Aziza.
Green Gulch’s Abiding Abess, Eijun Linda Cutts, kicked off the official festivities by introducing founding gardener Wendy Johnson. Johnson discussed the inspiring history of the farm, including its longstanding altruistic works. Green Gulch has partnered with a variety of nonprofits over the decades, providing produce and educational services to groups like Project Open Hand and The Edible Schoolyard Project in Berkeley. From an early stage, Johnson said the farm’s main question was: “How do we get beautiful food to a hungry world?”
Sara Tashker, current head of Green Gulch Farm, and Dave Stockdale, head of CUESA in San Francisco, later spoke on the importance of farms and farmers’ markets in connecting the public with the food they consume. Both touched on themes of community and connection, and Stockdale, whose organization runs the regular Ferry Building farmers’ markets, closed by calling the market “a place of inspiration.”
Eric Gower, cookbook author and founder of Breakaway Foods, took the microphone to discuss the stress-relieving aspects of preparing our own meals. He strongly advocated carving enough time out of your day to cook, suggesting we should all learn to expand our typically rote repertoires of five to eight go-to meals. Gower, whose company now traffics in the green tea powder matcha, served his product to attendees after the feast was through.
The last speaker was Olivia Maki, event coordinator at 18 Reasons, who tied together the day’s themes of connecting with farmers, being aware of your food’s origins, building awareness among the consuming public, and, ultimately “making food you’re proud to have on the table.”
Speaking of food on the table, the multicourse feast designed by Somerville — and executed by Aaron Jonas Catering — was simple rustic fare, prepared with produce from Green Gulch and other local farms. This included a baby gems salad with organic figs and local feta; a Moroccan tagine with baby carrots, turnips, potatoes, leeks and fennel; green beans with toasted almonds; and cheesecake topped with raspberries and blueberries.
The event also included periodic tours of the farm, a special daylong children’s program, and a raffle for prizes such as a tasting menu dinner at Greens. All proceeds from the fundraiser will go towards the renovation of Green Gulch’s Cloud Hall, the largest residential structure on the farm.