Farmers Unite in Mendocino: the First Farmers Guild Gathering!

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Written by Evan Wiig of The Farmers Guild & FarmsReach.

Never have I had so much fun preparing for a potluck. Last week I drove north from my home in Sonoma County to attend the very first official gathering of the Mendocino Farmers Guild! Inspired by Gowan Batist, a young Fort Bragg-based farmer and founder of Eat Mendocino (a project for which she spent over a year eating nothing grown beyond her own county), I decided that for my part I’d bring a Mendocino-only dish. With the help of my friend, chef Matthew Elias and locavore grocer-extraordinaire Scott Cratty, in a one-day “gleaning spree”, we experienced first-hand what this burgeoning local food shed has to offer.

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All Mendocino-sourced dishes

For the pasta dish, we used flour from Doug Mosel’s Mendocino Grain Project, pastured pork from the McGruder Ranch in Potter Valley, beautiful tomatoes from Floodgate Farm out near the coast, eggs from the Brady Family Farm, and olive oil from a local orchard. Even the salt, thanks to Gowan’s sea-side harvesting, came from Mendocino!

But far beyond that delicious pork ragu, most amazing of all was the community who grew its ingredients. That evening, fifty local farmers and ranchers gathered together at the Willits Grange Hall. Each with our own culinary contribution, we circled around a table to share a life and livelihood that we could all relate to and that more and more are coming to re-appreciate.

To many, Mendocino is known mostly for three crops: lumber, wine grapes and that other, less seen but more profitable of plants. But at that night’s gathering, it was obvious that a growing number of people are helping to shift priorities toward rebuilding safe, healthy and sustainable local economies built around food.

Short presentations before dessert and more socializing!

Gloria Decater, of Live Power Community Farm in Covelo, has known for a long time that this shift must begin with farmers. That’s why she first started convening her local agricultural community here, paying special attention to the next generation of those working to feed us. Along with Whitney Donielson from Emandal, Susan Lightfoot of North Coast Opportunities and Michael Folly of the Mendocino County Farmers Market Association and the local Grange, together they’ve opened the doors for a new hub, where farmers and farm-minded folks — young and old — can network, learn and teach skills, share resources, and socialize.

The Mendocino Farmers Guild will take place every third Tuesday of the month at the Willits Grange Hall, and is free and open to all. Right now, as the growing season winds down and this new group gets off the ground, they’re looking for more folks to get involved!

Interested in taking part, lending a hand or just spreading the word?  Join the new Mendocino Farmers Guild Group, or email me at evan@farmersguild.org!   We hope to see you at next month’s gathering on November 19th, 6pm-10pm.

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