“This is the single biggest thing I can do right now to help our farmers and the community,” said Franz, a Brentwood attorney and creator of Tess’ Kitchen. “Farmers aren’t cooks; they’re farmers. They want a place where they can drop off their products and pick them up again to sell.”
Tess’ Community Farm Kitchen (named for Franz’s mother) will work as a co-op, allowing residents to create pies, jams, jellies and syrups prepared from local farms to sell at market – thereby providing a venue for smaller farmers to generate potentially thousands of extra dollars a year from bruised or raggedy looking fruits that wouldn’t be sellable, but would make a perfect fruit product. And since the county’s 2007 guidelines allow local farmers sell these products on-site, the community kitchen makes perfect sense.
“Did you know that 60 percent of the farmers out here are working under 20 acres?” asked Franz. “So for them, every penny counts – and this is a great way to take a bunch of grapes and make some jelly, or use some less-than-perfect apricots and bake a pie, and get the profit back to them. A commercial kitchen for the average farmer is cost prohibitive, so this is a good solution.”
But it’s a solution that doesn’t come cheaply. Franz figures she will need to raise approximately $350,000 to build, stock and operate the community kitchen. So far she has collected $5,000 in donations and hopes upcoming events will provide the catalyst for success.
“I’m just getting started. This is something I’ve never done before, but I’m excited,” said Franz. “I’m involved in the Pepsi Refresh Project (a Pepsi-sponsored program that provides dollars to worthwhile community-oriented projects) and we’ve got events coming up. So far, the interest has been great.”
On Saturday, Aug. 28, Franz will host her first fundraiser, Tess’ Dinner at the Orchard, held at her farm kitchen site on the corner of Bixler and Balfour roads (across from The Lakes in Discovery Bay). The evening will feature dinner, music and a grape-picking outing in the orchard.
“I think this will be a nice event; a nice way to spend the evening,” said Franz. “It’s a good start.”
Franz’s original project began nearly 10 years ago and included a 5,000-square-foot community-oriented, farmer-friendly, organic Shangri-la designed to attract both casual visitors and eco-minded epicureans. The site would include a community kitchen, farm market and community gardens with glass house and visitor center. And while she has since downscaled the timeline, she hopes the end product will be the same.
“With the way the economy has gone, it has become very difficult to build something of the original size right now,” said Franz. “So it’s my hope that we can start with the community kitchen and that will help generate dollars for the other phases.
“I’ve always wanted this to be a place of community. I have this vision of being inside the market with kids running around and moms talking about the latest recipes and what’s fresh and what’s in season. I want it to be a fun place based on the earth and what it offers. It’s a big vision.”
Tickets for Tess’ Dinner at the Orchard are $60 per person, and seating is limited to the first 100 people. The event will be held from 4 to 9 p.m. at 8091 Balfour Road. For tickets or additional information, call 800-800-5373 or visit www.farmmarket.tv.