A short burst of much-needed rain did little to dampen expectations for the first annual Learning Gardens Laboratory (LGL) Farm to Fork Dinner on Saturday, August 11, 2018. After the sun returned, nearly 100 guests settled into a lovely summer evening, exploring the acreage and visiting various stations that represented the garden’s many programs. At each station, students told stories while plying guests with appetizers like grilled mahi-mahi and a local brew or wine. The evening included a gourmet dinner prepared by PSU Eats—PSU’s campus dining service and catering—and concluded with a chocolate dessert under the stars. LGL provided fresh vegetables that Executive Chef Matt Steele carefully incorporated into each course. A community member, whose own garden plot was steps away, supplied background music.
Guests enjoyed appetizers such as strawberry-cucumber gazpacho shooters paired with Widmer Hefeweizen and seared beef tataki with grated daikon and fresh horseradish paired with Kolsch from Double Mountain Brewery. Dinner began with shaved zucchini and tomatillo salad (both veggies grown at LGL) with prosciutto and arugula, accompanied by wild mushroom and burrata bruschetta. The entrée was a gluten-free French lamb stew with root vegetables. Seven of Hearts 2016 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir and 2014 Nebbiolo wines complemented the courses. The finalé, fingerling bananas and strawberries to dip in chocolate ganache, completed the repast.
“Everything came together beautifully,” said Sybil Kelley, associate professor of the Leadership for Sustainability Education (LSE) program and faculty coordinator of the LGL. “We have such a fantastic team of volunteers, staff, and capstone students.”
The inaugural Farm to Fork Dinner was devised by Kelley, who has worked in sustainability education at PSU since 1999, first as a student and then as a GSE faculty member. She collected honors this year from the PSU Institute for Sustainability Solutions and the PSU Foundation and is the 2017 recipient of the Oregon Science Teachers Association Fred Fox Distinguished Service to Science Education Award.
This was an opportunity for PSU Eats to flaunt their culinary skills while successfully serving a complex meal outdoors at a site that has no kitchen facility, picnic shelter, or cooking equipment. They placed real china amid clusters of goblets to accommodate multiple wine pairings.
“We had a lot of fun partnering for this dinner and we look forward to growing it to a real stream of support for the LGL in the years to come,” said Steele, who was assisted during the evening by 10 of his staff and Resident District Manager Jason Boss. “It means a lot to us all to be able to partner with campus groups and projects,” he said. “We love our PSU community and really enjoy helping it grow in any way we can.”
Graduates from the LSE program often return as volunteers in the garden and have built a formidable community of support for sustainability in the region. One exemplar is GSE Development Director Scott Shlaes, a 2016 graduate who volunteered to help set up the event and attended with his wife, Kelly. “This first Farm to Fork event was the perfect way to showcase all that goes on in the Learning Gardens,” said Shlaes. “It was beautifully coordinated and gave students the opportunity to share meaningful stories of sustainability education in action.”
In addition to PSU Eats, Farm to Fork sponsors included Seven of Hearts Winery, Papaccino’s Coffee, Sunblossom Farms, Leikam Brewing, Gigantic Brewery, Double Mountain Brewery, Hotlips Pizza, and New Season’s Market. Table sponsors were GSE Dean Marvin Lynn, OSU Master Gardeners, Multnomah Master Gardeners, and the Brentwood Darlington Neighborhood Association.
The event highlighted the partnerships among the Brentwood-Darlington community, the City of Portland, Portland Parks and Rec, Portland State University, OSU Extension, Portland Public Schools, OSU Master Gardeners, and the Brentwood Community Garden.
All proceeds raised from this year’s Farm to Fork Dinner support development of LGL and LSE programs.
The LGL property consists of approximately 12 acres on SE 60th Avenue in Portland, directly across from Lane Middle School. Lane’s sixth-graders participate in garden-based science programs throughout the school year. A community farm stand sells produce every Wednesday in the summer.
To visit the LGL, volunteer, donate, or learn more, go to: pdx.edu/elp/lse.