As a breeze blew through San Benito County on Sunday, July 22, 132 people gathered at the Herbert Family Organic Farm in Hollister for San Benito Arts Council’s The Art of Eating Farm-To-Table Benefit for the Arts.
“It’s exciting to see the wine and agricultural community get behind the arts,” said Jennifer Laine, executive director for the Arts Council.
Courses for the evening were prepared by Mike Fisher of Fisher's and Becky Herbert of Farmhouse Café, and featured wines from Aromas Cellars. All food served was prepared from locally sourced ingredients, including produce, chicken, and duck eggs.
“There were people here supporting the arts,” said Herbert, whose family owns Herbert Family Organic Farm. “There were people here supporting local agriculture. To get farmers who grow the food to join the people to share a meal with them is awesome.”
The appeal of supporting the arts and seeing where one’s food is from was not just felt locally.
Jen Wakefield drove over an hour from her home in Mountain View to attend Sunday’s event. Wakefield learned about the Art Council’s fundraising event through a newsletter sent by Herbert’s Eat with the Seasons Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) in which Wakefield is a member. Wakefield, who Herbert said was one of her first CSA customers 15 years ago, said she had interest in attending the event based on her confidence in Herbert’s culinary ability and wanting to support the cause.
“I know [Herbert’s] a great cook,” Wakefield said. “I also wanted to come because I wanted to see the farm and I wanted to support the arts.”
Laine explained that money raised from Sunday’s event would directly benefit youth in San Benito County ranging from transitional kindergarten to 12th grade, including at-risk youth in juvenile hall. In all, the art council programs support over 6,000 students in San Benito County.
“We are really working all angles to create an environment that nurtures the growth of art education,” Laine said. “These funds help us create new programs that support cultural diversity, build equity and access, and create partnerships with teachers than can aide 20th Century learners.”
In addition to raising funds for local youth programs, the Art of Eating Farm-To-Table Benefit for the Arts allowed for diners to interact with one another and the people contributing to the event.
While socializing before the dinner, farm owner Pat Herbert, father of Becky, addressed the crowd about his love of farming and producing quality food through the use of composting and ensuring his crops are organic.
“They found out if your food is better, you are better,” Pat said to the gathered crowd before dinner.
With food served family style, diners interacted with one another while sipping wine from Aromas Cellars or passing ratatouille prepared by Fisher.
“My favorite part of the evening was the people we met,” Wakefield said. “It was so much fun.”
During dinner both Fisher and Herbert came out to address the crowd about the dishes they each made.
Fisher praised local producers and encouraged diners to expand their pallets by introducing themselves to food in the area, such as duck eggs.
“Duck is an awesome ingredient and you all need to know that,” Fisher said. “The whole idea [for the evening] is to incorporate all the local produce we can.”
In addition to wanting to show diners a new way to incorporate an ingredient, for Herbert the location had a more personal meaning.
“This is where I grew up,” Herbert said. “My dad is the fourth generation of his family to farm. We bought this land from Colonel Hollister. You can’t get more farm than that.”
On her second dish of the evening, Herbert shared with the crowd that she learned to incorporate a food she was not naturally drawn to after trying one of her mother’s recipes: beets.
“I hated beets until my mom made a cake,” Herbert said. “I wanted to insert beets into people’s lives.”
For dessert diners ate beet cupcakes made by Herbert with their choice of cream cheese or chocolate frosting.
As the evening came to a close, raffle prizes were drawn and people said their goodbyes to others they met throughout the event as the sun set behind the Gabilans.
“To have this many people show up here was an honor,” Herbert said.