Farm to Table (Without Leaving the Farm): Route 1 Farms Summer Dinner Series

route 1 farm dinner series 2015Imagine:

A leisurely walk through trees and fields overflowing with farm-fresh produce…

Hearing stories of the farm directly from those who grow the food…

Eating a wonderful outdoors meal made with fresh farm ingredients, dining next to friends old and new.

Those of us that live in the Santa Cruz area are so fortunate, for so many reasons. One of my favorite aspects to Santa Cruz: the abundance of independent farms that we’re surrounded with, all growing beautiful and delicious products.  Some of these farms even hold community events—like Route 1 Farms, who announced its annual summertime dinner series where you can have experiences like the one described above.

Tickets went on sale earlier this month.

You may be thinking – wait a second, spring just started and you’re already talking about summer? But tickets to this series sell out fast, so here are details.  In fact, at the time of this writing, each dinner was already half full.

2015 Summer Farm Dinners

It’s the sixth season of the Route 1 Farms “Summer Farm Dinner Series.” This year’s dates are:

  • June 28 (with Chef Damani Thomas of Oswald)
  • August 16 (with Chef Adolfo Martinez of Ristorante Avanti)
  • September 27 (with Chef Santos Majano of The Kitchen at Discretion).

Tickets are $85 for Route 1 Farms CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) shareholders, or $100 for the general public. The price is all-inclusive. Learn more at the Route 1 Farms website and contact the farm at (831) 426-1075 or route1farms@yahoo.com with any questions.

route 1 farms summer dinner seriesAll of the dinners take place in fields or orchards of Route 1 Farms. The June and August evenings take place at Route 1’s Rancho del Oso location, about 30 minutes north of Santa Cruz, and the September event will be at Route 1’s Ocean St. Extension farm.

Jasmine Roohani serves as Route 1’s office manager and events/CSA coordinator. She has been coordinating the annual dinner series for five years, and really loves these events. “My favorite aspect is seeing the guests enjoy and take in the beauty of the farms and then sit down to a family-style meal that was prepared there in the fields by some of Santa Cruz’s best chefs,” she shares. “Most people don’t have the opportunity to visit a working farm.”

What to Expect

route 1 farm dinner seriesAt the events, attendees are welcomed at a reception where appetizers, beer, wine, and non-alcoholic beverages are served. Once everyone is present, farm owner Jeff Larkey leads the guests on a tour in which he talks about how he came to farm and the history of the land. He also talks about current farm happenings and/or events currently taking place in the field of agriculture. Guests have the opportunity to ask questions. At the Ocean St. Extension farm, the tour ends at the dinner site, which is in Route 1’s orchard under a 100-year-old chestnut tree. At Rancho del Oso, the group walks a half-mile through Big Basin Redwoods State Park to the dinner site.  “This is in the middle of the field on the hillside with a sweeping view back down towards the valley floor,” says Roohani.

The tours last from 30 minutes to an hour. “For the Rancho del Oso dinners we sometimes have special guests, says Roohani. “In the past we have had a nature writer and a birding enthusiast lead the hikes—and one time, we had star gazing at night led by a former NASA scientist/college professor,” says Roohani. Both farms are nestled in beautiful valleys that are rich with history, Roohani adds. “Also, Jeff is great at recounting the stories that have made these lands what they are today.”

route 1 farm dinner series tourIf you can only attend one dinner and you’re trying to decide which location to pick, there are a couple more differences in the farms. “Ocean St. is a good example of a small, diversified organic farm on the urban fringe,” says Larkey. “This location is 200 yards from the city limit of Santa Cruz and has all the urban pressures but also all the advantages of being close to town.  It also has a long history of agriculture dating back to the early Italian Genovese settlers who began farming there in the 1860’s.”

Rancho Del Oso is a more remote location. “However, it’s similar to Ocean St. in that it is also a protected coastal valley—except instead of homes, the land is surrounded by wilderness,” Larkey shares. “The farm is larger in size….40 acres as opposed to 12 acres on Ocean Street.”

Each dinner has a featured winery, and guests have the opportunity to meet the winemakers. Dancing Creek Winery (Jim and Robin Boyle) will be present for the June event, while August and September feature Odonata Wines (Denis Hoey) and Alfaro Family Vineyards & Winery (Richard Alfaro), respectively.

route 1 farm dinner

Damani Thomas, who will be cooking for the June dinner, has been the chef for one dinner of each of the six seasons. A week or two before the dinner, he creates the menu with all the crops growing in the fields. He obviously enjoys collaborating with Route 1. “I like the fact that the dinner series brings people together,” says Thomas. “The patrons, the winemakers, chefs, fishermen, and of course the salty old farmers. A little dust on your shoes but who cares.”

When asked to name a couple things that he likes about hosting these farm dinners, Larkey is very enthusiastic. “I love watching people as they begin to form a connection to where their food is coming from and how it is grown,” he says. “It also gives us an opportunity to have a fun break in the middle of the season and meet all kinds of people who have an interest in what happens on a farm.  There never seems to be enough time to explain all the finer details of farming, but to be able to enjoy a meal with others in the community and talk about it is a unique experience.”

If you’d like to participate in this unique experience, I recommend you purchase tickets soon at route1farms.com. Hope to see you there!

route 1 farm dinner

About Tara Fatemi Walker

Tara Fatemi Walker first fell in love with Santa Cruz as a UCSC student long ago. She returned in 2004 and is grateful to live in such a wonderful community. She loves to write about food, restaurants, and culinary events; see more of her writing at santacruzfoodie.com.

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