This past Sunday, in the minutes leading up to Hayes Valley Farm’s first dinner party, volunteers from Columbia University’s think tank C-Lab were still assembling a long dining table for 30 inside the farm’s new greenhouse—a clear, plastic structure built that day by nonprofit Architecture for Humanity. The greenhouse and the tabletop made of reclaimed crates broken down and stitched together with rope were made so nonprofit 30 Project, led by FEED bags’ Ellen Gustafson, could hold their first of 30 monthly dinners in 30 cities, gathering food activists, writers, growers, and community leaders to talk about food policy change through dinner conversations.
At the table were Twilight Greenaway from CUESA, Temra Costa of Farmer Jane, as well as folks from GOOD magazine, Cowgirl Creamery, Civic Center Farmers Market, and a slew of food activists from the East Bay. Former Portland restaurateur Michael Hebb helped Gustafson organize the night, roping in chef Laurence Jossel from Nopa and Siew Chinn Chin and Carrie Lewis from Chez Panisse to fry artichokes, cook a whole lamb three ways, grill asparagus, toast Tartine’s rustic loaves, compose a spring salad with grapefruit and flowers, roast carrots and cabbages, serve grain du jour farro, and bake an apple bread pudding with crème Anglaise. As invitees passed platters down the long table to share, people gave toasts to their idealistic visions of the future of the food system—kids who can ID garden edibles, small-scale grocery stores, better school breakfast and lunch programs, more community gardens and farms. A small camera crew was there to capture it all so Gustafson can share the SF conversation at 30 Project’s future dinner parties, the next in San Diego in April. “The idea is to gather people for the sole purpose of talking about food,” she says. “Hopefully, it will inspire people to do the same at home.”