Down on the Farm at Ayers Creek

Though nothing beats living and working in the heart of Chicago, sometimes it’s a treat to get outdoors and photograph food in its natural setting. On his recent trip to Portland, Steve had the opportunity to attend an outdoor dinner at Ayers Creek Farm in Gaston, Oregon, where he and others feasted on fresh food prepared by star chefs like Paul Kahan, Jose Garces, and John Sundstrom. Because  “farm-to-table” has become an almost-overused buzzword in the restaurant industry, it was a special chance to truly taste (and photograph) the beauty of a farm’s produce from the ground to the plate.

Ayers Creek Farm was an idyllic setting for the dinner. When Steve, Andrew, and the other guests arrived in the afternoon, Steve and Andrew immediately hopped on a golf cart to explore the whole farm, from its vegetables to its livestock to the natural scenery. The certified organic farm is owned by Anthony and Carol Boutard, a husband and wife team who bought the land over a decade ago. When they purchased it, Ayers Creek was a run-down piece of land, yielding just a few wimpy vegetables due to an overuse of pesticides and other harmful farming practices. By painstakingly restoring the soil with organic, natural materials, the Boutards have seen the farm transformed into a productive, abundant ecosystem that not only grows great-tasting produce, but is home to bees, birds, and livestock. Touring around the farm in the morning, Steve and Andrew photographed the wild landscape under mostly cloudy skies. Hours later, just as they were about to pack up and head inside to watch the chefs cook, rays of sun poked through the clouds, affording them beautiful shots of the farm at sunset.

After exploring the farm, it was time to watch the chefs in action. Chicagoan Paul Kahan joined Jose Garces and John Sundstrom to prepare a family-style feast using the produce from Ayers Creek. As they chopped, sautéed, and laughed in the kitchen, mouth-watering smells drifted out onto the patio where everyone would eat. Once it was ready, the meal represented what is most authentic about the farm-to-table philosophy: caring farmers who love the land they own, fresh and organic produce free of pesticides, and a group of guests who want to get to know the stories behind their food. Though the pictures below are only a sampling of the images Steve and Andrew shot, together, they tell the story of a wholesome, beautiful day down on the farm.

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