The hustle and crowds of your local markets — not to mention the hurly-burly nature of weigh-and-pay customer service — can sometimes prohibit friendly catch-up and Q&A with your favorite local farmers. Touching base with them at the California Small Farms Conference (CSFC) Tasting Reception on March 4 at the Valencia Hyatt probably will be only a little less crowded, but it will at least be flavored with the seasonally driven cuisine of Paul Osher (Bean and Thyme), Adrien Nieto (Master Chef, season 2) and Tim Kilcoyne (Sidecar Restaurant).

The Tasting Reception is the only part of the CSFC that's open to the general public. Tickets are a mere $35 and proceeds go toward scholarships provided to hard-working local-farm advocates, students and farmers to attend CSFC.

“The California Small Farm Conference Tasting Reception is a one-of-a-kind evening,” said Jodi Low, CSFC Tasting Reception chair and Santa Monica Farmers Market manager. “The event showcases the local bounty and innovation of small family farms, artisanal food crafters and the next generation of chefs paired with handpicked local wines, craft brews and spirits.”

Familiar farm faces include Soledad Goats, Drake Family Farms, Jimenez Family Farms, Friend's Ranch and Bill's Bees. Laura Avery (Santa Monica Farmers Market) and Amelia Saltsman (Santa Monica Farmers Market Cookbook) will be on hand as well. And if you're feeling frisky, shake hands with Karen Ross, Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, who recently wowed the crowd at the “Understanding the U.S. Farm Bill and How it Relates to Organic Producers” panel at the EcoFarm conference in Monterey earlier this month. You can bet it'll be a topic of conversation in between sips of locally produced wine and beer.

Felicia Friesema is a Master Food Preserver with the UC Cooperative Extension and Co-Leader of Slow Food USA's Los Angeles chapter. You can follow her on Twitter at @FeliciaFriesema.

LA Weekly