Field Notes

SHED Community — 2016 in Review

As the SHED community prepares to face the interesting challenges that 2017 is certain to offer, now is the perfect time to consider and reflect upon the pursuits and triumphs of the year just ending. And a glorious year it was.

Local Connections

“I can’t give anybody hope. Hope has to come up out of you. . . To find something worth hoping for is a very good place to start. There are things worth hoping for, there are good people, this is still a very beautiful world.”
Wendell Berry, Dec. 7, 2016

Education and community are as important to the experience of our Healdsburg store as good farming, good cooking, and good eating are to our Café, retail operations, and website. Helping people gain skills and independence, rekindle the arts of home and hand, and connect to one another are facilities we’re so proud to support.

By a hurried count, we hosted 91 events in our Modern Grange space in 2016, many of them on a donation basis to such nonprofits and worthies as
Healdsburg High School;
the Farm to Pantry program;
the Healdsburg Literary Arts Council;
Demeter USA’s Biodynamic education;
the Russian Riverkeeper;
the Sonoma County Food Recovery Forum;
the Healdsburg Jazz Festival;
the Center for Climate Protection;
our local Fibershed;
the UPside Dance Company;
and various filmmakers and artists.

Many of our events were dedicated to the literary arts, whether through our new in-store Book Group or in conjunction with the Literary Arts Council’s “Luminarias” series through which we hosted poet and former NEA Chairman Dana Gioia — among, indeed, other luminaries.

Whether through dance, film, lecture, pop-up event, or reception — the arts in general were the second-most supported type of event we hosted in 2016, followed closely by wine education, fermentation, crafting, farming, and community open house events.

Our teachers offered wisdom and hands-on instruction in the arts of
making ramen and fresh cheese;
using ancient fermentation techniques to craft new delicacies;
understanding and mastering areas of Japanese culinary traditions;
grokking the basic chemistry of taste;
working with bees in a manner sensitive to their world;
growing good soil; foraging and enjoying the bounty of nature;
the humane ranching and harvesting of animals;
the basics of camping and living out of doors;
the benefits and gifts that herbs offer to our plates and health;
tips on avoiding food waste;
and plenty of gardening-cooking-eating.

We helped to organize a Pie Parade in Healdsburg Plaza last summer that delights us to remember even now.

We supported the work of the Farmers’ Guild and sent our general manager and culinary director to meet area farmers at the “speed dating” event it hosted at the Sebastopol Grange.

SHED staff members volunteered with Farm to Pantry to glean overlooked produce, providing good food to the neediest members of our community.

The entire staff gathered at HomeFarm to get their hands in the good warm soil.

We were honored with a Sassy nomination for our sustainable practices and composted over 50,000 pounds of food scraps toward making new soil on our HomeFarm.

We launched the new Learn section of our website, devoted to ensuring that everyone is a member of the SHED community — no matter where they reside.

We had a lot of fun, we learned a lot, we made A LOT of compost.

Food to the Fore

“The kitchen is a place of tending, a place where we take care of things. . . . We learn that we are always in relationship to something, be it the sinkful of spinach or another human being’s desires or even our own restless thoughts.”
—Dana Velden, ‘Finding Yourself in the Kitchen’

This was the year that we launched our Taste of Place winemaker series, one that paired excellent bottles from local vintners we admire with the sensitive artistry of SHED culinary director Perry Hoffman.

We strove for something different with Taste of Place, something a bit deeper than the usual round-of-applause meals that mostly mark this type of endeavor. Rather, we wanted to find a new level of conversation between the food and the wine, the winemaker and the chef.

We encouraged far-ranging conversation and a new look at old traditions. It’s a series we’re excited to enlarge in the New Year, and a wonderful way for our guests to be introduced to flavors and methods that might be unfamiliar to them.

This was the year that Perry’s thoughtful inventive take on our ultra-local, ultra-seasonal, ultra-sustainable cooking got the notice we think he so richly deserves.

The influential San Francisco Chronicle critic Michael Bauer placed us on his Top 100 Restaurants 2016 list and suggested that SHED might be the best restaurant in Sonoma County, period.

He wrote, “The SHED celebrates its location in a way that no other place duplicates. It feels like the most authentic and beautifully conceived restaurant in Sonoma County right now.”

We still get a shiver of delight from this rare recognition.

This was also the year that we took a deep breath and tried something wholly new for us, the SHED Pantry Line, developed under Perry’s careful tutelage — and often composed of ingredients he foraged himself.

Focused on preserving the harvest, our jams, Shrubs, powders, pickles, salts, and sourced spices reflect exactly the food you would enjoy at our Café but in your own environs with your own sensibilities at play.

Looking Ahead

“To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never, to forget.” — Arundhati Roy

In the coming year, SHED plans to
continue the Taste of Place dinner series;
expand our Pantry Line offerings;
launch a new Kitchen Garden series devoted to best home organic gardening practices;
and once again welcome our Biodynamic experts, literary Luminarias, Jazz Festival musicians, and attendees, and continue our great Book Group.

Plus more. Plus surprises. Plus good new ideas we haven’t even thought of yet.

Your support and interest is so meaningful to us as we all prepare to begin a new year together, with its uncertainties and promises.

The SHED community includes those able to come in for a daily morning coffee as well as those who read our newsletters and browse our website over coffee thousands of miles away from us.

All of you are important to us and the mission that we’re crafting together.

May your New Year be limned with love and include heaping helpings of good farming, good cooking, and good eating.

Because at the most basic level, we can’t take care of one another in a better way than that.


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  1. Shirlee Erickson

    Congratulations to all of you…. what a lovely 2016 –

    Happy New Year.

    Shirlee & Jim Erickson
    Boat Street Pickles, LLC

  2. Etta Daniel

    While I can’t participate it is always enlightening to read about all the wonderful things going on at Shed. I am very proud to be one on the trees from which it sprang. Etta Daniel

  3. Tanya Roush

    I enjoy reading the Blogs and learning from all that you share.
    Congratulations on a great year!

  4. Leslie Woodland, Floor Manager

    Thank you for these beautiful words!
    I get excited every time I read this blog and learn what new events are in store, where and to whom SHED is supporting and has made a difference and new ideas and products coming!
    It is an honor and privilege to be a part of SHED family.

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