Califonia Bountiful

Making the connection between food and the land

Event provides mouthwatering evidence for the value of preserving farmland.

The menu was impressive, with everything from blue corn polenta to organic carnitas tacos, although for many who attended a recent gathering in Woodland, preserving the land that helped produce the feast carried the spotlight.

The latest "A Day in the Country" event brought a record crowd of more than 750 people to Harlan Ranch, to feast on locally grown foods, prepared by more than two-dozen chefs from throughout Northern California. Proceeds benefited the Yolo Land Trust, a non-profit group protecting Yolo County farmland.

"We can't lose the country. We can't lose this farmland," said Rick Mahan, chef-owner of The Waterboy Restaurant in Sacramento. "This is instrumental, and every day that goes by it's becoming more and more apparent that this is something that really needs to be protected and supported as much as we can."

Chefs devoted their time and talents to take fresh, locally grown ingredients and prepare dishes for the celebration, which raised nearly $50,000 for the land trust.

For many, the mouthwatering dishes provided tangible evidence of the value of preserving local farmland.

"We grow everything here," said local resident Tim Lapsley. "There's just such rich produce, wonderful fruit and good people. It's really wonderful to celebrate it all." Organizers said they feel this celebration serves as an excellent eye opener to the valuable role that rural California plays in providing food and caring for the land for future generations.

"It's great to see how excited people are when they can taste the food," said Peter Hunter, a farmer serving as Yolo Land Trust president. "When they finally see this tangible connection between the land, the producers, the food and the people that prepare it, that's really exciting for us."

"We can't be Silicon Valley without good food going on our tables," said Paul Muller of Full Belly Farms in Capay Valley, one of the event's founding forces. "We can't be Hollywood or the incredible cities that we have without pieces going to our tables that are feeding us and sustaining us. You need a healthy landscape and a healthy rural economy."

"It's just really important," said another area farmer, Tim Mueller of Riverdog Farm. "If we want to have fresh, excellent food that's picked one day and delivered the next, it can't come from far away."

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