WATSONVILLE—A sweeping view of the Pajaro Valley and the Santa Cruz Mountains greeted guests to Farm Discovery’s benefit dinner Saturday evening at Live Earth Farm.

The annual event is the biggest fundraiser of the year for Farm Discovery, a Watsonville-based nonprofit that aims to empower youth through farming, health and environmental programs. Farm Discovery brings thousands of students to Live Earth Farm each year for hands-on activities.

“Food and farming are an intersection for everyone,” said Jessica Ridgeway, Farm Discovery’s Executive Director. “We all have to eat. And how we eat determines our health and how we live.”

Attendees of the event were treated to a farm-to-table dinner designed by chefs with fresh, local ingredients, as well as live music and a silent and live auction.

One hundred percent of ticket sales and auction proceeds went back to the organization.


Local band Sugar By the Pound performs a blend of bluegrass and folk music to attendees of Farm Discovery at Live Earth’s benefit dinner Saturday. (Johanna Miller/The Pajaronian)

Dubbed “Element” to represent the four natural elements (earth, air, water, fire), this year’s meal was paired with wines from Scheid Family Wines, J Lohr, Storrs Winery & Vineyards and Cima Collina. Before the meal, cider from Chesebro, beer from Discretion Brewing and cocktails from Venus Spirits were also offered.

Speeches were given throughout the evening by Ridgeway, Live Earth Farm owner and farmer Thomas Broz, emcee Taylor Poudrier and Mayor Francisco Estrada.

Estrada said he was involved in a similar organization growing up—and that it changed his life.

“I recognize that I would not be standing here if it weren’t for programs like [Farm Discovery],” Estrada said. “I know how important it is. This community, this nation won’t endure unless we support our youth—especially youth of color.”

Appetizers included a local artisan cheese board, as well as empanadas made from Morris grass-fed beef and potatoes, prepared by Diego Felix of Colectivo Felix and Tabitha Stroup of Terroir in a Jar. An apple and onion salad with yellow mustard vinaigrette and roasted almonds was tossed by Chef Matt McNamara of Pretty Good Advice. Bread was provided by Companion Bakeshop.

The main course, a beet borsch with beef short rib, stuffed rainbow chard and potato leek pierogi, was created by Chef Jessica Carr of the Bon Appétit Management Company.


Venus Spirits of Santa Cruz was on hand at “Element” mixing signature cocktails made from local ingredients. (Johanna Miller/The Pajaronian)

Also stepping up to the mic was Andrea Reyes, who has worked with the organization for the past two summers as a Junior Staff Member. The work has given her a lot of confidence, she said.

“It’s been such a great experience,” Reyes said. “It has inspired me. I got a lead position here… and it led me to become captain of the cheer squad at my school. I’ve learned to ask questions and speak up when I need to. I’ve learned to lead by example.”

As the sun set on Saturday, stars shone—bright without light pollution from the city—and crickets began chirping loudly. Mason jars full of freshly-churned strawberry ice cream (with “chocolate crumble”) by Penny Ice Creamery were placed the tables—each with a lighted sparkler adorning the creation.

Estrada thanked attendees for attending the event and for continuing to support Farm Discovery.

“Farm Discovery has been a North Star for so many of our youth,” said Estrada. “They are investing in our youth’s future. Each of you here tonight… you are supporting something far greater than yourself. We can’t thank you enough.”

For information on Farm Discovery and future events visit farmdiscovery.org.

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