This episode: “Food, Part Three”

This episode: “Food, Part Three”

Event Date: Tuesday, December 14 from 7 to 9 pm

Admission is free. Tell your friends.

This roundtable conversation series happens at Vermillion, an art gallery, bar, and neighborhood gathering place at 1508 11th Ave, Seattle ( For more information on the series, call John Boylan at 206-601-9848.

If you want to link to this announcement, you can do so at

The quick summary: This time we’re revisiting the topic of food, food as work in the soil, food as pleasure, food as politics and economics, food as community, food as sustenance for the body and the soul.

The Guests (see guest bios below)

Sarah Kavage, artist and urban planner

Randy Engstrom, community organizer, activist, arts advocate

Kate Abarbanel, artist

Siri Erickson-Brown, farmer, sustainable agriculture activist

And possibly a fifth, a researcher on food security

The Story

This is the third in a loose series of conversations about food over the past several years, and I’m very excited about this one. It will be tasty, to say the least.

I started thinking about putting this conversation together as a way to debrief Sarah Kavage after her excellent Industrial Harvest project in Chicago (see below). As I brought in the other guests, though, it easily became apparent that each was also worthy of a good debrief. All have been doing very cool things in the world of food, and I wanted to hear more of what they’ve been up to.

I think, however, that these cool things are indicators of a much broader phenomenon, suggesting that the ways in which we look at food are changing. Some of that is obvious: the locavore movement, the rise of farmers’ markets, and the spread of organics. But there’s something deeper going on, maybe a shift not just in how we look at food, but how we value it. We’ll talk about that, and a whole lot more. (I also realized that it would be appropriate to talk about food in the middle of our big feasting/gluttony season.) Do come.

By the way, if you’re driving to Vermillion, a tip: come a little early. Doing so makes it so much easier to find parking.

Next Up: Circus Part III on Wednesday, January 5, and then in February (don’t have the date yet), a look at style.

The Guests in Detail

Sarah Kavage ( is an artist and urban planner whose work crosses discipline and medium to cultivate a dialogue about history, culture, and the world around us. Raised in back-to-the-land style in rural Ohio in the 70s, she has been in Seattle for a dozen years after stints in the mountains of Virginia and Pennsylvania, Washington DC, the Czech countryside, and Brooklyn. In her ephemeral public work, she draws inspiration from the methods and processes used in the research, social science and urban planning fields, using them in an artistic context as a way to explore a particular place, time, or issue.

Sarah spent this summer and fall in Chicago executing Industrial Harvest—an artistic gesture about the world of commodities trading and its influence on Chicago’s history, farming, and what we eat ( The Industrial Harvest began with the purchase of a futures contract for 1000 bushels (about 30 tons, the smallest wheat futures contract one can buy) of soft red winter wheat on the Chicago Board of Trade. Because a futures contract is primarily a financial tool and only very rarely ends in the delivery of real stuff, Kavage also bought 1000 bushels of real soft red winter wheat. She had it milled into flour, and spent the summer and fall giving it away around Chicago. Most of the flour was given to soup kitchens and food banks, with smaller amounts donated to organizations and people interested in feeding others, baking, and understanding the commodity food system (

Randy Engstrom has been a passionate advocate and organizer for arts and community development for over 10 years. He is currently the Deputy Director of the Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association (DNDA), a community development organization that seeks to create a thriving neighborhood through a variety of creative programs and services. Randy served as the Interim Director of the King County Food and Fitness Initiative while working at DNDA, where he stewarded a multi-faceted program that seeks to create policy and systems change in the food-retail, school, and built environment sectors.

Through his work with KCFFI, Randy helped to create the Food Education Empowerment Sustainability Team and the Healthy Corner Stores Project; FEEST is a weekly youth led organic dinner program that engages young people as advocates and leaders of their local food system, and the HCS seeks to transform a network of 20+ convenience stores into retail outlets that offer a variety of healthy food options in the food desert neighborhood of Delridge (which lacks any grocery store).

He is the Founding Director of the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center, a multimedia/multidisciplinary community space that offers youth and community member’s access to arts, technology, and cultural resources ( He also currently co-chairs the Seattle Arts Commission, and is the chair of the Facilities and Economic Development Committee.

He is also a founding member of Stronghold Arts Collective, an artist live/work project composed of four neighboring houses collectively owned by eight resident artists. In 2009 Randy received the Emerging Leader Award from Americans for the Arts and was one of Puget Sound Business Journal’s 40 under 40. He is a graduate of the Evergreen State College in Olympia, and earned his Executive Masters in Public Administration at the University of Washington’s Evans School of Public Affairs.

Kate Abarbanel is interested in creative projects that allow for new perspectives on everyday experiences: encounters with objects, spaces, people, with ways of interacting. She often works with food because of people’s intimate and everyday relationship with it. Her work takes different forms depending what comes naturally to each project, sometimes drawing, installation, live event, or organization/small business.

Kate is currently designing meals based on the things that people do in their work, the particular way they do those things, and the way they think about the things they do. Each meal is made in collaboration with, for example, an artist, a farm collective, a molecular physicist. The meals are part pop-up restaurant, part site-specific installation, and very delicious.

Siri Erickson-Brown runs Local Roots Farm, a 6-acre diversified vegetable farm in the Snoqualmie Valley. Born and raised in Seattle, she found her way to farming five years ago through a farm internship, and founded Local Roots in 2007. Siri considers her farm to be an experiment in sustainability. Is it possible for farmers to make a living, pay workers a living wage, conserve soil and water, and also make fresh produce affordable for all? In addition to growing food, Siri tries to find time to be a political advocate for the sustainable farming movement. She is the vice-president of Sno-Valley Tilth, and will soon begin serving as a King County Agriculture Commissioner. As if that wasn’t enough, Siri and her husband Jason are spending this winter getting to know their new baby, Felix, born in mid-October. You can find Local Roots produce at farmers markets, many great restaurants, and Central Co-op (


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