Part of our model as a community farm is partnering with like-minded organizations in the community. We believe we are better together and that collaboration promotes greater food security in San Diego. One of our favorite partnerships is with Kitchens for Good, a nonprofit that breaks the cycles of food waste, poverty, and hunger through innovative programs in workforce training, healthy food production, and social enterprise.

We’ve partnered with Kitchens for Good since our inception. Initially, we donated farm-fresh, organic produce to support the organization’s hunger relief efforts. To date, we’ve donated over 4,000 pounds of farm-fresh organic veggies!

Last year we deepened our partnership by starting farm-to-fork visits. During these visits, Kitchens for Good students tour the Farm, harvest fresh veggies, and cook a veggie-filled meal using original recipes. These students are part of Project Launch, Kitchens for Good’s culinary apprenticeship program. Project Launch trains students who face barriers to employment—including incarceration, domestic violence, and substance abuse—to launch careers in the culinary and hospitality industries.

Every few months a group of these apprentice chefs visits Coastal Roots Farm and harvests fresh produce with our farmers. Together farmers and student chefs walk through beds of whatever veggies are growing that season, from beets to arugula to carrots to kohlrabi. Our farmers share how to properly harvest produce and process it at the wash station. Students see firsthand the work it takes to grow food for the community, and where their produce comes from. On the Farm, they’re able to pick their ingredients from the dirt with their own hands, a new experience for many. Students witness the range of veggies that grow on a farm, including less-than-perfect or oddly-shaped veggies that often go to waste in restaurant settings.

“What’s most exciting for me about this program is that we get to bring so many individuals who are entering the restaurant and hospitality fields to a farm and bring awareness to where food comes from, how much labor goes into growing food, and the importance of growing food in an ecologically sustainable way,” says Jaclyn Kellner, community educator at Coastal Roots Farm. “Kitchens for Good already does incredible work with rescued and ‘ugly’ produce and I hope that these visits add to an increased understanding and sensitivity toward food waste. At the end of the course, the graduates spread out to different kitchens all over San Diego and hopefully some will bring an awareness around where produce comes from to those spaces.”

Then, with just an hour of preparation time, students head to the kitchen to prepare a feast using the ingredients that the land provided. It’s an exercise in innovation for the chefs as they think on their feet to create original dishes using whatever seasonal ingredients are on hand. Once the meal is ready, each student introduces their dish, and we all sit down at the table together. The farm team benefits by getting to taste their creations—the better end of the deal, if you ask us! We’ve enjoyed collard soup, red rice with pomegranate seeds and radishes, charred leeks, artichoke dip, and more. Even when students use unfamiliar veggies for the first time, it’s always delicious, not to mention a beautiful example of what a farm-to-fork meal looks like.

“I love making the connection between farmers and cooks,” Jaclyn says. “For farmers, the end product is a vegetable. For cooks, that’s the starting point. Often neither side is aware of the other and it’s so special to spend a day bringing awareness to this complementary part of our food system.”

Just as the students learned from Coastal Roots Farm farmers in the field, the meal offers a time for us to learn from them. We learn what inspired each chef to make a certain dish, how the veggies were prepared, and what brought them to Kitchens for Good’s Project Launch program. Students share their stories, career aspirations, and what they’ve learned through culinary training. As we eat together, we’re reminded once again of the transformative power of gathering community around food.

Thank you Kitchens for Good for sharing the harvest with us!