People dining outdoors

Idaho’s Farm-to-Fork Founders

After 14 years, Peaceful Belly Farm’s Farm-to-Fork suppers are still going strong

Lex Nelson

Entrepreneur magazine credits restaurant partners Kimbal Musk (you may have heard of his brother Elon) and Hugo Matheson with founding the farm-to-table movement, pulling together disparate influences from California, the Pacific Northwest and beyond to create their Colorado restaurant The Kitchen in 2003. But in Boise’s microcosm, that right may very well go to Clay and Josie Erskine of Peaceful Belly Farm, who kicked off a trend of their own around the same time Musk and Matheson opened The Kitchen. Their concept was simple: chef-prepared suppers served outdoors on their 60-acre Dry Creek Valley farm, made with produce they’d grown themselves.

“We thought we made up ‘farm-to-fork,’” said Josie, referring to an early conversation with Chef Abby Carlson about the dinners. “Because we were like, ‘What should we call it? What should it be?’ My guess now is it was happening all over.’’

The original aim of the dinners wasn’t, as some might suspect, to generate buzz for the farm. It wasn’t even to increase transparency in the food system or encourage buyers to set foot on the dirt where their dinners once grew. Instead, Josie said her mission was nothing more or less than to “create the most authentic, detail-oriented and delicious meal possible.”

That mission, and what eventually became known as the Farm-to-Fork Supper Club, still continues today with bi-monthly dinners prepared by Carlson and James Beard-nominated Chef Nate Whitley. And because the farm produces more than 180 types of vegetables, along with berries, flowers and herbs, the potential plates are almost endless, rotating each month depending on what’s fresh to create an entirely different dining experience catering to “elevated eaters.”

As for deciding what fills those plates when the big night arrives, Josie admitted she leaves it up to her lieutenants, with the stipulation that it’s produce-based, and light on meats and sauces.
“I have no clue what’s going to be on the menu. I tell the chefs what’s best in the field and they create the magic,” she said.

Still, she does sometimes jump in to issue a challenge. This September, for example, Peaceful Belly’s chefs turned out a dinner for 30 based entirely around tomatoes—even dessert featured the fruit, served poached.

Though October’s dinners (originally slated for Friday and Saturday, Oct. 5 and 6) have been canceled pending the completion of a new kitchen facility, Josie said she has high hopes for November, rattling off a long list of the produce that should be in season: kale, arugula, carrots, beets, turnips, onions, garlic, potatoes and winter squash all fit the bill, to be supplemented by summer preserves.

Tickets to the dinners Friday and Saturday, Nov. 9 and 10, cost $125 per person and include five courses along with pours from Snake River Winery and Stack Rock Cidery. Learn more >