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Up Highway 1 from Mill Valley, along the coast, is the farm community of Bolinas. It’s only about twenty-five miles from where I live, but it is truly worlds away. There, Paradise Valley Produce is run by two amazing farmers, Dennis and Sandy Dierks, who’ve lived virtually off the grid for about thirty-five years. The farm has been certified organic since 1972 and represents an era of farming that is wholly unique and, from a chef’s perspective, completely amazing. As I worked on the menu for El Paseo, I asked Dennis and Sandy if I could visit them to learn more about how their local farm could play a part in our restaurant. It’s one thing to buy local produce and yet another to actually walk the fields and hand-harvest amazing produce. Dennis, Sandy, and I walked through rows of gorgeous rainbow chard, multiple varieties of hearty kale, fragrant green garlic, and delicate pea tendrils. To hear their personal story of maintaining a small family-run farm in a world of mega-market expansion and simultaneously experience the bounty of their years of dedication was truly inspiring. Just a few yards from the fields—where my dog, Jake, and his new farm-dog buddies chased off deer and hawks—Dennis got the communal fire pit going and we got to cooking up the day’s bounty. As we worked with their beautiful produce, I couldn’t help but feel the embrace of their sense of pride and place. Paradise Valley is enchanting and produces delicious food, and if you ever have the chance to visit a farm, I think it’ll change the way you think about your food.

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