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Lions Roar : September 2012
SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2012 34 and farming, she says, are fundamentally about “observation and curiosity” and responding to conditions as they are. Today the crew is planting a half-acre of the farm’s total of about five and a half acres. The farm generates between $160,000 and $180,000 in revenue each year. About 20 percent of the pro- duce—including leafy greens, broccoli, beets, scallions, potatoes, and zucchini—goes directly to the kitchens at Green Gulch and to Greens, the renowned San Francisco vegetarian restaurant started by Zen Center in 1979. The remaining 80 percent is sold at farmers’ markets and to grocers and restaurants. Tashker follows along behind Little O, a cultivating tractor, en- suring that the beet seeds have dropped. With only seven minutes to go before lunch, she looks at her watch and instructs her crew to finish up with three flats of fennel. Though there’s still much to do, including watering and covering the seedlings, this planting day is going smoothly. It isn’t always so. Once, a plug blew out of the trac- tor oil pan on planting day, and oil spewed everywhere. A resource- ful apprentice whittled a temporary replacement out of wood. Such occasions remind Tashker of the quiet and continuous efforts that support Green Gulch, and by extension Zen Center. “These places exist out of the generosity and goodness of people’s hearts.” The goodness ripples outward, but also inward, into the bel- lies of people whose study of Zen may consist entirely of what they gleaned from the whole-wheat-flour-dusted pages of their Tassajara Bread Book. Written by then-student Edward Espe Brown, the Bread Book taught Zen while instructing how to make a flaky biscuit—and readers are still eating it up. The book has sold 900,000 copies. The Bread Book and Brown’s subsequent books, including the recently released Complete Tassajara Cook- book, changed how cooks relate to their work in the kitchen, to their ingredients, and to their own minds. They helped put wholesome baked goods and appetizing vegetarian meals on tables around the country. Celebrity chef Mark Bittman credits the Bread Book with inspiring his first forays into bread baking. Annie Sommerville, a sixty-year-old former Zen Center stu- dent and Tassajara resident, has been executive chef of Greens Restaurant since 1985. Greens is one of the few surviving busi- nesses of the expansive Richard Baker era. While the restau- rant operates independently, it still contributes financially to Zen Center and features what Sommerville calls the “stunning” Green Gulch Farm produce. Recently, Zen Center welcomed longtime supporters of Tassajara to an appreciation dinner at Greens. Sommerville’s menu featured roasted dry-farmed pota- toes speared on rosemary stalks, artichoke and sunchoke gratin with fromage blanc custard, and flourless chocolate torte. Greens’ customers are diverse—and mostly not vegetarian. Sommerville believes in helping customers open up to the pos- sibilities within the vegetable by presenting food that is not only pleasing to the eye but also “recognizable—a celebration of ingre- dients.” The staff may no longer bow at an altar in the kitchen be- fore beginning their work, but the altar is still there—one of the chefs tends it—and Sommerville still approaches her work from Harvesting lettuce at Green Gulch Farm, which supplies organic produce to local businesses, City Center, and the community’s famous vegetarian restaurant, Greens. PHOTOSBYANDREAROTH