In the high season of apricots, Jenny Raven bakes the fruit into morning pastries at Oakland’s Boot & Shoe Service.
Vivien Straus makes regular visits to the lowing, contented heifers at the Straus Home Ranch.
Danny Gabriner transforms flour and water into sourdough bread at San Francisco’s Sour Flour bakery, and then he passes along his knowledge to curious students.
What do these three dedicated Bay Area artisans have in common? Get Gone Traveler, a website curating a wide array of foodie adventures.
Recently launched out of Oakland by Anna Smith Clark, Get Gone Traveler offers experiential travel focused on the making of food. Or, as the startup puts it on its website: “Get Gone creates a marketplace that connects food forward travelers with hosts who share their love of the taste, culture, land and traditions that create good food.”
Smith Clark, whose credentials include working for Slow Food USA and Marin Organic, launched the Get Gone site quietly a few months ago, and it is still in beta mode. She has raised some investor capital and says her plan is to start by mainly offering food experiences close to home, in Northern California, and eventually, once any wrinkles have been ironed out, roll out nationally and then internationally.
The current experiences are divided into four primary categories: meat, cheese, farm and flour. Want a primer on perfecting your approach to making pie dough? Click on “Flour” and your options open up. Want to get your hands dirty in a butcher shop? Hover over to “Meat” to find a sausage-making class at Berkeley’s Local Butcher Shop. Prefer a walking farm tour? Get Gone has plenty of those, from West Marin dairy tours to an urban honey tour in Texas.
In some ways, the idea is like a year-round summer camp for adults. But it’s up to you to make time for an “Oyster Lovers Tour” or the “Straus Home Ranch Tour.”
This is what Nisha Kapadia Bhesania and her husband experienced at Straus. Bhesania says she learned a lot about the farm and family’s history, especially that the creamery is a separate entity from the family farm. And she learned specific details about the dairy process.
“They raise a group of female cows together (basically a gang of teenagers) that are grazed on the land, rotating through different areas,” she says. “We got up close and personal with the young ladies, which was really fun since they are a curious bunch.”
Vivien Straus, along with one of her brothers, led the tour. As part of the Straus family, Vivien believes in the usefulness of agro-tourism and is herself the founder of The California Cheese Trail.
Straus was acquainted with Smith Clark through Marin Organic, where Anna used to work with producers to bring products to the marketplace. Straus said she finds the tours beneficial to her business: “It’s useful for consumers to meet the people behind the food. Learning by hands-on activity allows them to emotionally connect with farm education. And Get Gone brings a different audience than the farm tour.”
Smith Clark says her first experience of regularly “getting gone” was in Australia. On one of her visits, she found a book, Backyard Self-Sufficiency by Jackie French, and brought it back to her then home to Santa Monica. It inspired Smith Clark to take the grass out of her yard and turn it into a little farm. “I just found it fascinating and thought, ‘Why not?’” she says.
She also had a daughter to consider. Both sides of her family (one in Minnesota, the other in Germany) owned working farms while she was growing up. As a girl she “had days of running out in the pastures.” Where she then lived, near Wilshire Boulevard, her daughter just wasn’t going to have the same experience. After transforming their yard, her urban family ended up “having this little paradise where we had rabbits and grew tomatoes. It was a nice place for her to grow up and feel outside.”
Over time, Smith Clark’s personal concerns for sustainable living evolved into professional ones. She not only worked for Marin Organic from 2008 to 2011, she also began to volunteer for Slow Food USA in 2009. “I was between things work-wise,” she said. “I saw a poster about Slow Food and I’d heard about it before. I started to check out the different chapters that were around to see what was available. In 2008, I attended some of the different events at Slow Food Nation and ended up joining Slow Food Berkeley.”
Every chapter sets its own priorities, such as school nutrition or workers’ rights. According to Smith Clark, her chapter “did a cow share with members, which was ahead of its time. I also got a call to run a campaign called ‘Time for Lunch,’ which was a big push for children’s nutrition.”
Through this work, she became an accidental activist. “Bringing people together has always been my entire life,” says Smith Clark. “That comes from just enjoying feeding people and being around the table. I was very surprised that I found myself in and amongst all this. I had my little tiny piece and I worked on it.”
After doing her due diligence in the organic and slow-food community, it was another trip to Australia that planted the seeds of Get Gone Traveler for Smith Clark. She went to five regions — Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide and Tasmania — and explored hosting food and sustainability tours in each place.
Through her Slow Food network, Smith Clark encountered “really lovely, good people” from cheese makers to beef ranchers in places to which American travelers don’t typically go. “I was in western Australia four hours south of Perth,” she said. “Thirty thousand a year [tourists] go there, maybe. I had it in my head that we were going to bring people to places that they hadn’t thought of.”
Yet something didn’t feel right about her initial approach. She came to believe that she was “taking something away from people who were the experts and they were already having a hard time. It really, really, really bothered me.” So she went to Adelaide and stayed in a writer’s co-op. There, she says, the owners were supplementing their income with an Airbnb rental. “I said, ‘Wait a minute. If we were able to give a voice to these people, then travelers would be able to find them.’ I already had been researching them and I knew that the market for food tourism is huge, but the problem was sourcing the experiences and qualifying them.”
That’s what lies at the heart of Get Gone Traveler: transforming the financial exchange of consumer and producer into meaningful food tourism. In the Bay Area, the average resident cares deeply about where their meals come from and how, exactly, the ingredients are made. By bringing consumers together with the farmers, bakers and artisans, Smith Clark facilitates the sharing of knowledge, expertise and the love of craft.
These adventures might also help inspire a renewed interest in a return to our agricultural past. After tasting the cheese made from Straus cream, Nisha Kapadia Bhesania had only one unfulfilled wish: “I would have liked to have the opportunity to milk a cow.”