Farm Dinners:The Ultimate Local Food Experience

Have you ever heard of farm dinners? I hadn’t until about a year ago, and it was one of the reasons that brought me to Walla Walla. To tell the story right, I have to start at the beginning, with a Bacon Affair.

While living in Los Angeles, a friend of mine told me about an underground dinner she recently attended, all dishes themed around bacon. She described it as a foodie rave party, where there were a limited number of tickets, in a secret location which changed every event, and no one knew where until the last minute. I had to know more, so I did some research and contacted the woman running the event. The tickets were $75 per person, so attending as a guest was not realistic for my husband and I. I offered to help out in the kitchen, in exchange to be a part of the event and learn more.

The event was beautiful, the food fancy and delicious, and the guests and I enjoyed every minute of it. I loved the idea of the dinner, a big long communal table with beautifully plated food, in a location outside the formal restaurant. But I felt something was missing, a connection to the food being enjoyed. Sometime later that year, I heard about farm dinners being hosted around the country. They were like the underground dinner, but rather than being in a warehouse somewhere in the city, they were hosted on a farm, using fresh ingredients directly from the farm itself. This was the part I felt was missing! I had to experience this myself!

Looking deeper into the farm dinner world, I came across Outstanding in the Field, an organization who puts on farm dinners all over the country, and world. I signed up to help out at the Rio Gozo farm in Ojai, California, about two hours outside my home in LA.

Arriving to the farm around noon that day, I knew I was in for a special treat. The farm was like a postcard, sun shining down on majestic green flowering fields, surrounded by lush rolling hills. We set up tables adjacent to the fields, under shady trees. The tables were clothed in white linens and sparking glassware was set. Just beyond, the chefs begun preparing the meal, from produce recently picked from the fields in the foreground. Simple kale greens were transformed into a vibrant ribbon salad with peppers and carrots. Fennel wafted in the air, as the chef simply chopped the bulb into a luscious mixed salad. Then I noticed the chef pause from his chopping, and headed toward the garden area. I was in awe, as I watched him, literally picking himself some more fennel! At that moment I knew this was where I belonged and what I wanted to do. I wanted to be that chef and put on farm dinners.

(Rio Gozo Farm, Ojai, CA.)

Farm dinners may be a new trend and something of a novelty to city folks who spend many of their evenings out at restaurants, but I think there is something quite beautiful and intelligent about it. To me, it’s about honoring the work done on a farm and appreciating the food that is grown there. So much food these days is processed beyond what we would even recognize as a whole food, with no comparison to it’s original form. We ship food across the world, to be enjoyed months after it’s picked. Having a farm dinner, the food is grown and eaten on the same day, in the same location. It gives diners a chance to honor the people who grow the food and taste the food in it’s most natural form, with little creative tweaks by a trained chef. And like my original underground dinner, it’s in a non-traditional location, but better than a stale barren warehouse, out in the beauty of a natural verdant environment.

This last weekend, I put on my own farm dinner, at West End Farm on Wallula Road. It was a intimate event, with a small crowd of farmers, local artisans, chefs, friends and family; just the way I had envisioned it to be. The food was good and wine plentiful, but the thing that surprisingly pleased me the most was the community spirit at the table. Here, in one place, were many of the amazing people of Walla Walla, sharing a meal and conversation together. More than just honoring the farmers that grew the food for our meal, we were honoring the family that baked the bread, vintners that produced our wines, rancher that raised our meat, chefs that produce amazing local food, and community members who believe in and support our local food system.

My journey that started in a Los Angeles warehouse, searching for a community food scene, has brought me home to Washington, to find a even better food community than I could have ever dreamed of. Not knowing what I was in search of, I have found my place and a beautiful connection I didn’t even know existed. Oh, Walla Walla, I’m so glad to have stumbled upon you. Thank you for everything you do and are.

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Categories: around walla walla, check this out!, community projects


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5 Comments on “Farm Dinners:The Ultimate Local Food Experience”

  1. September 27, 2011 at 1:49 pm #

    O Melissa! I so wish I could have been there. Seeing the photo of so many folks I know and don’t know at the farm makes me so happy though. Thanks so much for joining the Walla Walla community.

    • melissadavisfood
      September 27, 2011 at 5:55 pm #

      It was such a beautiful event and evening! We did miss you though! Thank you for the warm greeting and all your kindness. Best of luck in Detroit!

  2. September 28, 2011 at 2:18 pm #

    beautiful. thank you for sharing Melissa. We love you and miss you but are oh so happy you have found your place in this universe.

  3. Dalia
    September 28, 2011 at 3:21 pm #

    Wish I were there to enjoy the delicious food!

  4. October 4, 2011 at 9:10 pm #

    What a wonderful idea! This sounds like such an intimate and unique experience. The locally grown food prepared right before you eat it sounds amazing.
    Thank you for opening our eyes to this!

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