Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Pie in the Sky

During my time in the Bay Area, I had the opportunity to swing by Mission Pie to enjoy not one but three of the cafe's tasty offerings. (Well, two and a half: I was eating a divine walnut tartlet when my friend Colin arrived. I got up to advise him on a pie choice as he stood in line and when I returned to my table there was a scruffy, red-eyed, beer-scented gentleman eating the rest of my pastry. Welcome to San Francisco. I told him he could finish it, and when I returned with a new cup of coffee, and Colin, and Colin's two slices of pie, he was gone. Is this commonplace? Nobody seemed to notice.) Near the end of the sweet and savory feast, one of Mission Pie's founders, Karen, graciously came over to tell me a bit more about the eatery's philosophy and collaborative projects with other local businesses: Mission High School, New Door Ventures, Swanton Berry Farm, Pie Ranch, and others. Each of these groups focus on creating positive work environments and cultivating successful new farmers, bakers, or entrepreneurs. Very cool. One of the students was working at the front counter when I had ordered -- very professional -- and I'm telling you the pies they make are delicious.

A few days later, after a stop at lovely Potrero Nuevo Farm in Half Moon Bay, Ollie and I pulled into Pie Ranch, where many of the local, organic ingredients for Mission Pie are produced: berries, potatoes, pumpkins, wheat, eggs, and more. Yum. What I was really excited to learn more about, though, was the work Jered and Nancy -- who run the farm/non-profit -- have been doing with students from Bay Area high schools. Unfortunately, because of the inopportune timing of my visit, I didn't get to see the high school program in action on the farm. However, I did have the good fortune to have a personal tour of the grounds with Nancy in the afternoon during the Saturday community workday, at which point I learned about the monthly, year-round farm workdays and week-long intensive spring break and summer campouts with a diverse population of youth. Students build confidence, cultivate friendships, and work in the vegetable gardens during their time on the slice-of-pie-shaped property. (No, seriously, the farm's geography inspired its name; its collaborator, Mission Pie, came later. I've heard rumors about partnering with a local dairy to create another entity, A la Mode. Love it!) Some of the farm-savvy teens have gone on to work part-time at Mission Pie in the city, continuing to develop their job skills at the other end of the food spectrum.

I left the farm on Sunday morning with a belly full of scrambled farm fresh eggs and made my way toward the site of another of Mission Pie's collaborators, Swanton Berry, where I was to feast on pie and coffee and soup while I learned about organic berry production and farm worker unions. Well, this journey is about food, after all. A post on Swanton Berry's inspiring work is coming soon....

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

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