We were all very proud on Monday night as Farmstead restaurant presented its first "Corkage for Community" grant to St. Helena FFA students amidst a sea of blue jackets (and supporting parents).
Chef Sheamus made the grant presentation of $3000 to FFA chapter president, Rachel White, at Farmstead restaurant in front a collection of smiling faces in the distinctive FFA blue jackets.
In response, the students honored Sheamus and Farmstead restaurant with an autographed magnum of Zinfandel wine made in the school's enology class. (Yes, the same wine sold for many thousands of dollars at the annual FFA auction!)
And, after the presentation, every table with a FFA jacket or 4-H uniform received a 25 percent discount on their table’s dinner check. We filled the dining room with students and families. It was a great feeling for all of us.
As Sheamus pointed out in his presentation, the initiative demonstrated by these young men and women to raise animals, learn the craft of agriculture, and demonstrate personal leadership is very inspiring.
These "kids" are the future of agriculture in our community and we are thrilled that the St. Helena FFA program is so strong (more than half of all high school students participate and the program has been named "Best in California").
The St. Helena FFA program is led by a extraordinary faculty (Randy Mendes, Laura Mendes, and Sarah Herdell), has an active and effective Ag Boosters support group, and has enjoyed the support of the district's administration and school board.
We are also pleased by the response to our "Corkage for Community" program. Instead of the typical $10 to $20 corkage fee charged for opening a bottle of wine brought to the restaurant, Farmstead collects a $2 fee for every guest's bottle. The unusually low corkage fee is donated to a different community-based not-for-profit organization each month.
Its our way of promoting a community meeting place and supporting our neighboring community at the same time. We want vintners, growers, and wine enthusiasts to come to Farmstead to show off their wines while at the same time contributing to our community.
Future grant recipients include Rutherford Grange, St. Helena Community Swimming Pool, and Rianda House. We're going to designate the first Monday of each month as "Corkage for Community" Night when we will make presentations and toast recipient organizations.
FFA Night was great. Hope you'll come to the next one.
Last Mother's Day I was visting my mother in Pennsylvania as had become my practice over the past few years. Today is our first Mother's Day without her. She died on October 3, 2009. We all miss her deeply and continue to be inspired by her commitment, energy, and strength.
My blog posting from last Mother's Day is reprinted below, along with a photo I took that day.
Today is the day to celebrate the root of it all: Mom.
Anybody who has been on a tour of the ranch has heard me start the narrative with: "My mother was an organic gardening pioneer in the 1940s."
Today I am back in Pennsylvania spending the day with the source, my mother. Although our small family farm is long gone (we left in 1961), Mom is still going strong (at least in terms of her ability to tell me what to do).
Today we reminisced about her early start with gardening. Her father and mother (my grandparents) operated a small grocery store in Beaver. It was a neighborhood store with a confectionary and sandwich shop. Mom isn't sure about its proper name because everyone called it "the little store." But, we think it was officially known as DeHass Grocery.
The family provided fresh produce for the store from its own gardens just a few blocks away. As children, my mother and her two brothers and sister worked in that garden. There was always a compost pile and my grandfather mixed a variety of potions, including soapy water and tobacco juice, for pest control.
Sadly, my grandfather lost the store to bankruptcy in 1936 when he could no longer pay his own bills after providing credit to so many of his customers. But, the traditions and skills of growing for the market were already in place.
When my mother and father were married, they soon acquired a small rural property and, as they say, the rest is history. The bible, according to Mom, was "Five Acres and Independence," a book first published in 1935 which became popular with young couples following World War II. One of my most prized possessions is my mother and father's copy of the book, which Mom presented to me a few years ago.
Mom reminded me this afternoon that I turned the compost pile for the first time when I was five years old.
Thank you, Mom.