From the Desk of Alice Waters
“Dear young farmer,
I want to start by saying “thank you.” Thank you for choosing to be a farmer and for choosing to take care of the planet. Thank you for dedicating yourself to feeding us all. And thank you, too, for being the inspiration for my restaurant—indeed, for my life’s work. You are my partner in change. Forty-four years ago, when I first opened Chez Panisse, I could never have imagined that my restaurant would be anything more than a small neighborhood place for my friends to gather and talk politics.
Fifteen years into the life of the restaurant, we began to feel the need to connect more deeply with a farmer and were looking for a farm of our own. We were incredibly fortunate that Bob Cannard, a gifted farmer, wanted to work with us alone. By committing to buying everything that he grew, we were able to guarantee his livelihood. In turn, he taught us to treasure the land; from him we learned about real nourishment, about the rhythms not just of the seasons but of the years.
We became extensions of each other—what Carlo Petrini, founder of the Slow Food movement, calls “coproducers.” Petrini also believes that farmers are the “intellectuals of the land.” They have the practical experience and rarefied knowledge to choose just the right seeds for a particular place, to plant them in the most advantageous way, and then to tend the plants and bring them to their perfect moment of ripeness.
This is what taste is all about. And it is taste fundamentally that makes my work irresistible and your work vital. I always say that farming is at least 85 percent of cooking, because it is taste that will truly wake people up and bring them back to their senses and back to the land.”
Excerpt from Letters to a Young Farmer used with permission from Princeton Architectural Press © 2017.
Alice Waters is a chef, food activist and the founder and owner of Chez Panisse Restaurant in Berkeley, California. In 1995 she founded the Edible Schoolyard Project. She went on to conceive and help create the Yale Sustainable Food Project at Yale University and the Rome Sustainable Food Project at the American Academy in Rome. In 2015 she was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama.
Letters to a Young Farmer is a collection of essays/letters from influential farmers, chefs, leaders, writers and entrepreneurs. Filled with advice and encouragement, the book doesn’t shy away from the realities, necessities and challenges of modern farm life. With the average age of farmers in the United States north of 50 years, the contributors hope to foster the sorely needed next generation of agricultural producers.