A quick meeting with FARMstead ED founder Lynette Sonne and Karen Tallent, owner of The Groves on 41, is enough to get the mouth watering for the savory and sweet flavors grown all along the Central Coast — which is just the reason Lynette was moved to launch the FARMstead ED program in 2014.
Five years later, partnered with more than a dozen farmers and producers, an “a-ha moment” sprouted into a full ED-ucational AGRI-cultural experience around San Luis Obispo County.
“About 20 years ago, a group started the farm trail in the county and it was really ahead of its time,” Lynette said. “It was meant to showcase farms
The growing farm trail map currently boasts nine locations from Talley Farms in Edna Valley to Hartley Farms in San Miguel and Stepladder Ranch in San Simeon.
“It was born because people would come and tell me that I have such great olive oil, or ask me where I get such good honey or beef, and I thought ‘how do people not know that we have these amazing resources right here in our county,’” Lynette said.
From there, it became a hands-on project.
“The idea is to bring people out to the farm,” Lynette said. “Farm-to-table was in full swing with restaurants serving fresh, local food, but where are the farms?”
Local residents drive by them every day. Knowing where the farms are, what they produce, and where a lot of local food comes from is an impressive experience.
“More and more, people want to know where their food comes from,” Karen said. “It’s a family experience and we learn together.”
The Central Coast is a getaway for many from around California, the United States, and the world. Many come to the Paso Robles area for the wine, and the farm trail is a special attraction.
“It dovetails into a weekend of wine tasting, because what goes better with wine than local food?” Lynette said. “We have people come for a three-day weekend and after wine tasting, are ready to sidetrack their palate a little bit and learn a little more about where your food comes from.”
Lynette noted that alongside the flourishing wine industry, it is important to realize that the local agriculture industry is a one billion dollar industry in its own right — how’s that for a local pairing?
Speaking of pairs, Lynette and Karen make a great one.
“Karen and I met at a wine event, introduced by a mutual friend and the rest is history,” Lynette said. “We’ve done a lot of collaborative farm experiences.
Together, along with other local farms like Templeton Valley Farms, Chaparral Gardens, and Harmony Lavender, they provide a hands-on “AGRI-cultural” experience for all ages.
“It is a cultural experience to come out, meet the farmer, hear the stories, and learn,” Lynette said. “We are in AGRI-cation. I learn… I went through a three-hour workshop to see how sausage is made and now I so appreciate the time it takes. Like the flavors of olive oil, understanding and knowing what it takes to make it makes me appreciate it even more.”
FARMstead ED is still growing and collecting local farms, ranches and purveyors.
The purveyors and artisan craftsmen on the trail infuse their products with locally farmed ingredients to make everything from cocktails to spice blends — including Yes Cocktails, Bren’s Original Blends, and LifeElements.
“We’ve got a lot of local purveyors who use the products from local farms to create their products,” Lynette said. “So it is not just the olive oil from this farm, but it is the olive oil that goes to Leo Leo Gelato to make olive oil gelato or the lavender… it is the collaborative effort. Like the herbs and spices that go into Yes Cocktails to make their drinks.”
As a rising tide raises all ships, so does a strong network of local farmers, ranchers, and artisans.
Karen, who runs the 10-acre farm at The Groves on 41 with her daughter Jennifer Joseph, is working on a new tree-planting program and will open up a tasting room.
“It is a matter of timing, but [the tree planting program] is just about ready to roll,” Karen said. “You can come out and learn about olive oil and the ways we are planting and… you can plant your own tree, with a certificate with the coordinates of where it is, and come visit. It also entitles you to become an honorary producer and be a part of the producer’s club.”
FARMstead ED coordinates team building workshops that put groups and companies in touch with opportunities for hands-on experiences within the farm trail network.
To learn more about FARMstead ED, contact Lynette at 805-226-2081 or info@FARMsteadEd.com, or go to farmsteaded.com.