Meet The Makers – From Farm to Table

As a foodie living in California, we are fortunate that most restaurants feature locally sourced products. But, sometimes we take for granted our access to these foods. In many other cities around the country, the access to local farms is not possible and farm-to-table is more of an exception than a rule.

To cap off the weekend in Santa Barbara wine country for the Wine Bloggers Conference, we traveled to Bridlewood Estate Winery in the heart of Santa Ynez Valley. After a fresh picnic lunch sipping Bridlewood Chardonnay, Rose and Pinot Noir and overlooking the lake, we headed up to the barrel room to “Meet the Makers”, the farmers responsible for products were were eating.

These passionate farmers spend their days producing organic and sustainable products. They are small businesses who are concerned with quality over quantity. And, they want to make the products available to the community.

Meet the farmers:

Finley Farms Organic is a small family farm located in the Santa Ynez Valley. Chris and Johanna Finley are self-taught farmers who juggle the farm, three children and pets. Between all of these things, they also run the business. While they aren’t currently on twitter or instagram (we heavily encouraged them to join), they have a Facebook page where you can find updates about seasonal produce.

Chris and Johanna Finley, Finley Farms Finley Farms Tomato and Melon Salad

They also sell locally to restaurants, grocers and farmers markets and can be found at many Farmer’s markets [Tuesday Culver City, Wednesday Solvang, Friday Montecito, Saturday San Luis Obispo, Santa Monica, Los Olivos, Sunday Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Studio City].

If you are up in the Santa Ynez area, stop by their Farmstand [Finley Farm, 1702 Refugio Rd., Santa Ynez, CA. 93460].

And from April to November, you can order a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and receive a box each week of available produce.

Stephanie Mutz of Sea Stephanie Fish is a commercial fisherman working out of the port of Santa Barbara, who fishes predominantly for urchins and snails, but also catches local fish. Stephanie’s goal is to make fresh, local, sustainable seafood more accessible to the community in order to provide a healthy and balanced lifestyle.

The sweet, tender sea urchin that we tried can also be found, among other items, at restaurants throughout Los Angeles, including Eveleigh, Hungry Cat, FiftySeven, to name a few. Stephanie also sells directly to consumers and announces on Twitter (@seastephfish) where she will be and what fresh fish is available that day.

Stephanie Mutz of Sea Stephanie Fish  Sea Stephanie Fish Santa Barbara Sea Urchin

Valley Piggery is owned by Jake O. Francis, a pig farmer and chef. He first learned about pig farming in Athens, Georgia and today raises heritage breed pigs.

Jake O. Francis of Valley Piggery  Valley Piggery 14 mo old cured ham

Jake encourages taking a holistic approach to eating pork and is a proud omnivore. Jake names each of the pigs and the pigs are shown lots of love and care. They wander the pasture and woodlands in Santa Ynez Valley and with a diet of GMO-free grain and legumes, they are happy pigs.The pigs are respected and honored from the field to the butcher block to the kitchen.

Miss Piggy Miss Piggy

To meet these farmers and listen to them share their passion and dedication, it is easy to conclude that farm-to-table is a way of life, not one dining experience. We need to care about where our food comes from. We need to know how it lived and how it died. Transparency and integrity are why these businesses succeed and we must demand this from all purveyors.