Fifth annual Farm to Fork Benefit Dinner opens new Cowell Ranch Hay Barn

This year the dinner will move indoors as the first public event inside the newly renovated hay barn

Matthew Raiford
Matthew Raiford, a 2011 graduate of the Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture, will be honored at this year's Farm to Fork benefit dinner, a tradition he founded five years ago. Here, he prepares the meal for last year's benefit dinner. (Photo by Melissa De Witte)

The fifth annual Farm to Fork Benefit Dinner at the UC Santa Cruz Farm will be held at the newly renovated Cowell Ranch Hay Barn Saturday, September 12.

The program is scheduled from 3 to 7 p.m. and will begin with a sparkling wine and appetizer reception at the organic farm and garden on campus.  Guests will then make their way to the new barn for a sit-down dinner.

The dinner is the inaugural public event inside the newly completed barn that is becoming the headquarters of the UC Santa Cruz Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems.  The barn matches the footprint of the 150-year-old original and includes modern materials along with some salvaged timbers.

This year the benefit dinner honors Ecological Horticulture Apprenticeship alumnus Matthew Raiford who created the first Farm to Fork event at UCSC in 2011 and has returned each year to help present the farm fresh meal. Raiford, who goes by the title  “CheFarmer,” has a 20-year career involving both farming and culinary activities.  He’s been an executive chef in several locations and has taught culinary arts at the college level. With his sister he oversees Gilliard Farms, a family organic farm in Georgia that dates back to 1874.

 Raiford and his partner Jovon Sage recently opened The Farmer and Larder, in Brunswick, Ga, that offers culinary classes, kitchen supplies, and occasional dinners and Sunday brunch.

 This year’s Farm to Fork dinner will be prepared by Feel Good Foods, a catering company owned by another graduate of the UCSC apprenticeship program, Amy Padilla, and her partner Heidi Schlect.

Tickets are $150 per person.  Proceeds benefit the Apprenticeship Program in Ecological Horticulture. Information on registration is available at