The King Street Giants lept from the stage with their tuba, trombone and trumpet, leading a parade through the crowd.
Farm tours guided by organic trailblazer Paul Muller included deep cuts on pesticide-free practices and the chance to harvest all the cherry tomatoes, sweet bell peppers and watermelons you could.
Two thousand attendees—swelling the size of tiny Guinda, population 113—delighted in everything from a fiendish corn maze to intricate jack-o-lanterns to comforting Rocko’s Ice Cream Tacos.
In other words, it was a helluva heehaw.
Best of all, Full Belly Farm’s annual Hoes Down—part campout, part cookout, part concert, all harvest party—did more than throw an epic outdoor party. It raised $13,433 to support farmer scholarships to the EcoFarm Conference.
EcoFarm, the oldest and wisest organic farming convention in the country (the world?), is coming up quick, happening Jan. 17-20 at Asilomar Conference Grounds.
While it digs deep on big-picture policy and in-the-dirt practicum, it also involves a lot of fun for the casual organic soul, like beer and kombucha tastings and an Expo Center blooming with cool books, products and tools.
Longtime organic activist and EcoFarm sponsorship manager Dina Izzo encourages locals to come for, say, the wine and cider sampling and stay for the keynotes and seminars.
“It’s an amazing event based on farmer-to-farmer education, and there are a lot of gardeners too,” she says, noting the picturesque grounds merit a pilgrimage by themselves. “More than anything it’s people who grow food and care about how it’s grown, who want to learn something and who want to meet like-minded folks and enjoy delicious breakfast, lunch and dinners specifically created for the conference.”
FEELING THE FLOW
Balefire Brewing is alive and well in Live Oak. I popped in on its one-month anniversary and tried a few of their flagship beers—a tasty Leeloo American IPA, smooth Moped red ale and a chocolatey house porter among them. The thing that distinguishes the handiwork of brewers Leslie Buchanan and Nate Murphy is subtle but mighty: The beers are all balanced and weighty—without being heavy—which Murphy attributes to a slow brewing process that prioritizes depth of flavor and smooth mouthfeel. Now they’re adding programming with things like live music (check the website) and pub trivia (next appearing Tuesday, Nov. 28) and inviting over food trucks regularly (a drippy queso birria from Espadin Cocina made my afternoon). balefirebrewing.com
November is Native American Heritage Month and a reminder that the erased history Thanksgiving sits on can and should be reanimated. To that end, this fall I visited the closest Indigenous restaurant for a few hundred miles, Wahpepah’s Kitchen in Oakland. I loved the art and epicurean elements Kickapoo nation chef Crystal Wahpepah and her team do, from the colorful murals to the heirloom corn bread to the smoked salmon-berry salad to the sweet potato-hibiscus “taquitos.” It felt like a grace to get to enjoy such a thoughtful and thought-provoking meal, and for that I give thanks.