In an effort to shorten the distance between farm and table, Rich Table has begun offering guests the opportunity to harvest their own meals.
According to the restaurant’s owners, the patrons’ desire to be closer to the roots of their food has been a longstanding wish.
“It’s where they want to be. They taste grilled ramps or our brassicas and their eyes go all misty, thinking about a sunbaked fields and shit,” said Evan Rich.
Indeed, a poll of guests having dinner at Rich Table recently confirmed that a possibly misguided nostalgia for farming runs rampant among San Francisco’s foodiest foodies.
“Honestly, it sucks. I have to be stuck in an office all day. I’d give up my six figures just to get away from it all and skip through rows of arugula in the sun like farmers do,” said Andie Chandler, a Rich Table regular.
Others patrons agree that farming is an ideal livelihood.
“It’s a more authentic experience of life,” says Amy Neglet, an enthusiastic patron of the farm to table movement. When asked what sparked her passion for farming, though she has never farmed before, she points to the watercress soup in front of her.
“It’s so fresh, and bouyant. I envy the farmer who gets to spend his days in the sun, coaxing the life into this plant. I wish I could be there,” says Neglet, flicking a braised morel into her mouth. She is signed up for next month’s trip.
“I already bought the cutest cropped pants for the harvest,” said Neglet. “It’s gonna be just like ‘Under the Tuscan Sun!'”
The process is fairly simple. The guests preselect dishes from the Rich Table menu, then board a shuttle to the farm with a list of ingredients. Most diners feel confident in their farming abilities.
“I grow fresh basil in my windowsill. Farming is practically in my blood,” said Chandler, who was later rushed to the hospital with severe sun poisoning and significant blood loss after a scythe accident when she tried to harvest wheat.
Other diners fared worse. A young man of twenty-five, who took the farm trip as a break from managing his start-up, fell and sliced an artery when posing for a picture next to a plow.
While diners endured the pain of pruning in the midday sun, farmers get to relax.
Antonio Mendez, who typically oversees the farm and manages the harvest himself, got to spend the day resting on his porch with his daughter.
“Dunno why they want to do this, but it’s fine for me,” said Mendez, stretching his legs across a porch swing as a group of young women began to weep from fatigue under a cherry tree nearby.
Despite the catalogue of injuries and trauma that the trips have bred, the Riches remain optimistic.
“We want people to really see, to feel, where their food is from. And that’s what they want too. Putting the name of the ranch or farm on a menu just isn’t the same as harvesting the sorrel or casing the sausage yourself,” said Sarah Rich.
The Riches tell us it’s the next step in the farm to table movement. Farms, in the form of farmers’s markets and rooftop gardens and such, are coming as close to the city as they can. The last step is getting consumers onto the farm.
Rich Table doesn’t provide the privilege of harvesting your own food for cheap. The cost is $350 add on to the regular menu price. And for $220 more, diners are permitted to accompany sous chefs in the kitchen for cleaning and prep work, as well as doing dishes.
“We’re hoping to get diners the onto the ranch to slaughter their own cows,” said Rich, as a diner cried softly in the background.