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09.24.08

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Phaedra

Fork & Shovel

By Gretchen Giles


A chef in immaculate whites stands impatiently in his kitchen, examining the fresh fish that the monger has just brought, and rejects it based on the look of its eyes. He turns to the mushroom forager, newly arrived with a basket of fruit straight from the forest. Behind him, the bakery delivery boy bustles in with that day's bread, and the farmer whose plot lies just down the road arrives with flats of fresh-picked produce. A regular day's meals are ready to be made.

This scene, of course, is rubbish. Utter fantasy—even in most of the chef-owner restaurants in wine country. Why is this bucolic vision so thinly staked to reality? Administration, of course. For the farmer and the chef, at least, finding a way to coordinate the farm and the plate is harder than one might guess.

Enter Fork & Shovel. A new nonprofit, Fork & Shovel aims to connect the farmer with the chef via the miracle of the web. Looking to create what Slow Food Russian River co-leader Randi Seidner calls "a strong ordering system," Fork & Shovel wants "to set up the interface" between two professions that desperately need each other. But why, one wonders, is this so darned hard? "If a chef can order everything from one purveyor, which is how the U.S. food system is set up, they're going to do that. Plus," Seidner explains, adding, "chefs are busy. Farmers are busy. If we can help facilitate the ordering system to be more, well, orderly, they're more like to use it, and, really, everyone benefits."

To that end, Fork & Shovel hosts a fundraiser on Oct. 5 to raise monies for this project, one that it intends will strengthen the local foodshed by giving area farmers more outlet for their work. Featuring live and silent auctions, music, an art installation and food from some of the best restaurants in Sonoma County (Cyrus, Santi and Mosaic are just three) and organic and biodynamic wines (Quivira, Preston and Medlock Ames are just three), this afternoon also helps to raise awareness for one of Seidner's own passions, the Heritage Turkey project run by Slow Food Russian River that matches 4-H kids with old-fashioned, and delicious, livestock. These turkeys sell out well in advance of every holiday.

As eating locally and supporting local providers becomes more mainstream, outfits like Fork & Shovel may one day not need to exist. "People are getting it," Seidner agrees, adding with a laugh, "and it's thrilling—because we're all going to be screwed if we don't."

Fork & Shovel launches with a party on Sunday, Oct. 5, from 4pm. Barndiva and the Artist and Farmers Gardens, 231 Center St., Healdsburg. $125; $90 of that is tax-deductible. [ http://www.slowfoodrr.org/ ]www.slowfoodrr.org.


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