The right angles of streets and structures in the Atwater warehouse district didn’t soften under the sepia lights. We parked in front of a rare break from the concrete and steel, in front of a stretch of wood with a suggestion of a door. “This must be it,” I said to Mark. A turn of the handle revealed towering thickets of bamboo lining a low-level lit path. We followed it, this meandering trail, through a hidden paradise to a haven of warmth and bright colors. We arrived at Elysium.

Leyna Lightman, event catalyst extraordinaire, partnered with Leonardo Bravo of Big City Forum to host a conversation between Mark Stambler, Bob Kunz, and I. We had a frank (might even say brutally honest) conversation about working with heirloom grains and, most critically, about running a small-scale, ethical business. We shared with the audience stories of our passion and hardships, and ultimately came out with a sense of optimism for what’s to come. I felt grateful to be with two people dedicated to pushing the boundaries of their craft, to break from the conventions of industrial production. This is the start of a collaboration to strengthen each other and a new California grain economy.

Not only do I feel optimistic, but also heartened. Bob told me about his experience opening the bag of my red fife and being amazed at the powerful, spicy smell — something he hadn’t experienced with grains before. I’m so glad he had fun with them! Mark spoke of his support for my farming practices, which audience members reiterated.

That evening of delightful surprises and wonderful company characterizes this trip to Los Angeles. The rest was more of that.

The next night was the grand dinner. 60 seats sold out and bomb-a** food and drink. It was a unique, once-in-a-lifetime affair. I’m so honored to have been part of this collaboration!