Farmer-Chef Connection

Today my friend Mollie and I attended the 10th Annual Farmer-Chef Connection at Clackamas Community College. We aren’t farmers or chefs, just eaters, but they let regular people come too.

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Put on by the Portland Chefs Collaborative and Friends of Family Farmers and sponsored by New Seasons Market, FoodHub, and Cascade Pacific, the event was both informative and inspirational. We were a bit late, rather ironically due to a distracting stop at New Seasons en route, so we missed the opening remarks by HOTLIPS Pizza co-owner David Yudkin and had to slink into seats at separate tables in the standing room-only auditorium.

We arrived in time to hear Keynote Speaker Nicolette Hahn Niman’s fascinating righteousporkchopdiscourse about her work as an environmental attorney, activist and rancher, her experiences with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Waterkeeper Alliance, and her sweetly unexpected marriage to famous rancher Bill Niman of Niman Ranch. Nicolette’s passion is industrialized livestock production, and she just recently published her first book, Righteous Porkchop: Finding a Life and Good Food Beyond Factory Farms, which is part expose of the “factory farm” industry, part call to action, and part love story. If the book is anything like her talk, it will be a fascinating read. Apparently Michael Pollan thought so.

After Nicolette’s talk, we helped ourselves to fresh chewy wood-fired Tastebud bagels (Tastebud chef/owner Mark Doxtader brought two huge sacks and tubs of fresh cream cheese) and cups of Tao of Tea Jasmine Pearls green tea, and enjoyed the mid-morning mix ‘n mingle hour.

fctastebudNext, everyone broke out into choose-your-own workshops, which were held directly before and after lunch. We attended Farmer-Chef Connection 101, a panel discussion with a half dozen farmers and chefs that included Carafe Bistro Executive Chef Pascal Sauton, Shari Sirkin of Dancing Roots Farm, David Knaus of Fresh Earth Gardens, and Anne Berblinger of Gales Meadow Farm. Through their freely given insights, we learned how farmers price their food and market their product to chefs, and how the two parties collaborate to cultivate strong, mutually-beneficial relationships.

lunchline2And then there was lunch, which was the part I was the most excited about, I must confess. Nearly 50 local farmers, ranchers, growers, dairypersons, restaurants, markets, coffee and tea companies, and other purveyors volunteered their product and time to create fantastically fresh and delicious food. It felt like the sort meal you might get after a good old-fashioned barn-raising on a huge organic farm staffed by Le Cordon Bleu graduates. Everyone served themselves family-style in two long rows, and much exclaiming could be heard.

SuDan Lamb, Square Peg Farms, Lucy’s Table, Sauvie Island Organics, Oregon Culinary Institute, HOTLIPS, Random Order, Organic Valley, Delphina’s Bakery, Nostrana, New Seasons, The Brownie Farm, Daily Cafe, Genoa, Accanto and so many more donated to the lunch.

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We left full, inspired, and looking forward to the next year’s event.