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Making Farming Culture Accessible

30 September 2015 Written by  By Tricia Piquero
Published in October 2015 Articles

Tess’ Community Farm Kitchen offers a daily farm market program, providing fresh produce as well as educational opportunities to instruct visitors about where our food comes from, and how to obtain fruits and vegetables that are organic and pesticide free.

A gift shop offers hostess gifts or birthday gifts, and gifts for special occasions, plus soaps, lotions, clothing, hats, and other items visitors might wish to purchase. Visitors can also purchase a candle, called “Community,” that is custom made for Tess’. A selection of cheeses from Cowgirl Creamery is also available. Each cheese can be paired with boutique wines and custom beers.

Tess’ Kitchen also offers a commuter’s breakfast, where people can text their order and drive-through to pick it up without leaving their car. One tasty item on the breakfast menu is a blend of coffee, custom made for Tess’, as well as a savory French roast for coffee drinkers with a more exotic palate. A deli counter is open for breakfast and lunch, plus offering take out items for dinner. The menus feature dishes and entrées prepared from currently fresh seasonal ingredients. Tess’ Kitchen offers a “prep chef” program enabling area cooks to submit phone orders in the morning for special ingredients to be used in feasts they will be working on later in the day. They can serve julienned carrots without having to do the chopping themselves or diced tomatoes without ever touching a culinary knife. They no longer have to drive to Berkeley for Acaí berries. 

Tess’ Kitchen will also provide instructions on creating custom baskets using their retail products plus whatever fresh fruits and vegetables, soaps and lotions, wines, coffee, cheeses, and other items the gift-basket preparer might have in his/her home. Culinary specialists provide hands-on instruction supplemented by two flat-screen TVs that provide attendees with up-close views of whatever specialist is leading the class at the time. Other classes will cover topics including such kitchen basics as how to tell when a dish is ready to be removed from the oven or stove. Ethnic cooking classes will include instructions in preparing such tasty cuisines as Cuban and Brazilian. A monthly Hometown Chef class provides attendees with opportunities to share their favorite recipes and cooking tips with each other. Kids cooking classes will be offered.

Tess’ Kitchen will also become a stage for special events featuring the musical talents of local singers and bands. The venue is also available for small events and celebrations such as birthday lunches, and BBQ’s. It is also available for market testing for items that vendors wish to add to the product list.

The kitchen is open from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday.

Barbara Franz, a local attorney, has spent years engaged in starting Tess’ Community Farm Kitchen as a quixotic adventure — a Star Trek type journey “to boldly go where no man has ever gone before” — or where no East County resident, at least, has gone. Barbara is working with other East County residents in bringing Tess’ Kitchen from dream to reality. The site is named for Barbara’s mom, honoring her mother’s lifelong passion for beautiful objects, gardens, and food preparation.

The idea of a dream, in Barbara’s case, has a much more literal meaning than the one most people associate with bringing a dream to pass. Fifteen years ago this month —in October 2000 — Barbara Franz had a dream in which she saw the number 160,000 in bold letters together with a sign that said FOR SALE TEN ACRES. Barbara didn’t know what to make of the vision until three days later when she was driving on Balfour Road near Discovery Bay and saw the FOR SALE TEN ACRES sign from her dream. The experience was made even more surreal by the fact that the contact phone number listed on the sign differed from Barbara’s personal phone number by a single digit.

“When the sales agent told me that the asking price for the lots started at $160,000,” Barbara said, “the hairs stood up on the back of my neck,” It was difficult to come up with the money, but Barbara succeeded through an amazing series of coincidences and fortunate events. Escrow closed February 28, 2001.

Barbara’s husband died unexpectedly of a heart attack the very next day.

Everything changed, of course, but as Barbara’s life reached a new normal, she began to put together plans to develop the site as a resource to bring East County residents together with the local farming community. She began plans with a farm, a parking lot, a commercial kitchen, and a farm market. The 10 acres will eventually be planted in gardens and will provide public areas for people to gather and relax. She also plans to construct a 5,000-square foot glass house to house collections of memorabilia including things left behind by her own mom and others representing a generation now passed, but remains present in the lovely objects they left behind. The third phase will include a set of gardens that will be labeled, “The Evolution of Love in the Spirit,” which will center around a variety of water treatments reflecting the stages of life and our Delta environment.

Barbara set out to create lovely spaces that facilitate visitors in reconnecting and renewing their thoughtful and loving relationships with each other. She had to overcome a number of barriers while putting the project together. For one thing, the site is located in the Agricultural Core so development could move forward only after completing the lengthy process involved in securing permissions from the County.

Barbara said that costs would have become insurmountable if she had been forced to pay lawyer fees for the hours that she contributed to the project. Development was also affected by the downturn of the economy that plunged fundraising into a dark place just at the time when Barbara was hoping to move forward on the project. Barbara characterized the task of creating Tess’ Kitchen as “difficult, demanding, and expensive.” Then she added, “But most of all, it is absolutely astonishing!”

When the site is finally completed according to Barbara’s master plan, it will become an East County landmark and a popular destination.

“We are excited to go on the journey with our neighbors and friends,” Barbara said, “of exploring food, drink, and merriment.

We will be glad to accompany her on that journey.

Read 2692 times Last modified on Wednesday, 30 September 2015 21:53
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