Why We Grow
When Sam first took over the 18th Street Market, he was concerned with stocking the shelves and butcher case full of ingredients needed to build an inspiring meal at home. He also wanted to give our chefs a chance to bond with their menus and the opportunity to share that pride with the guests they served. It became clear that in order to form an intimate relationship with the food they sold and prepared, the preparers needed to dig deeper into the agricultural system of which they were already a part. The natural next step was to begin farming.
We now grow food on an acre of land tucked into Sonoma wine country, have started a rooftop garden at our Divisadero location and keep bees on the roofs of both San Francisco markets. Every year Sam prepares a staff dinner with vegetables from the Sonoma Farm. It is a source pride and integrity to know a meal’s journey from seed to plate. Farming allows us to learn about the land that provides our food, to promote a local food economy and to teach our community about the real cost of food.
We grow to learn.
Farming helps us to understand our local agricultural and environmental systems. Too often city-dwellers become disconnected from such things, and engaging with the processes on the farm restores awareness of the human place in the natural life cycle. Working on the farm provides us with knowledge of building soil and nurturing plants from infancy. The freedom to plant specialty crops each year offers our kitchens the chance to work with rare or delicate ingredients, which are presented nightly in our dinners. Our farmers, staff and volunteers are learning first-hand about diversifying crops in a wine-dominant region.
We grow to teach.
We strive to strengthen the connection between our community and their food. For us the most exciting thing about our farming projects is the chance to offer programs like Farm School, our class that shows members of our community how to grow in a hands-on environment. Farming allows us to teach our staff, and anyone who wants to learn, how much planning, time and labor goes in to providing what we eat. It gives us a platform to talk about eating as an active, conscious choice that effects how the world is inhabited and how resources are used.
We grow to support the local food supply.
We understand the environmental impact of growing food on any scale. Having our own piece of land allows us to practice “beyond organic” farming, to have the opportunity to be outside the umbrella of certification but still have the confidence of knowing exactly what is in our produce. This experience gives us a chance to have an intelligent dialogue with smaller produce suppliers because we understand firsthand the obstacles they face. That in-depth glimpse at produce not as a product on a shelf but as food is something we share with our guests every day.
Farming has brought us to the realization that our food community goes beyond sellers, eaters and producers to include the land that provides us sustenance. We grow to deepen our relationship with our food and the environment.