Barbara Frantz's dream of opening Tess' Community Farm Kitchen is one step closer to reality. After a long process, involving a number of bumps and hurdles, the ground has officially been broken and construction is under way for a 2,500-square-foot building that will hold a commercial kitchen, farm market and barn.
Once completed, the nonprofit organization will be ready to fulfill its mission of teaching people the importance of fresh produce in their daily lives and providing the means to make this happen by offering hands-on cooking classes, demonstrations, and events.
Also on site will be a year-round farm market where local fruits, vegetables, eggs, honey and nuts will be sold and a deli counter with take-away main courses, desserts and other goods made from whatever is fresh and local.
Frantz has been working on this project for the last 13 years and it all started with a dream.
"I bought the land because I had an intense dream about something for sale, 10 acres and the number 160,000. Then one day I was driving into Brentwood and saw a sign that said for sale 10 acres," she said.
"I called number and was told that lots started at $160,000 so I knew I was meant to buy it even though I wasn't sure for what, and that started the project."
The project was named after Frantz's mother and with the idea of using the 10 acres for Tess' Tea Gardens, eight gardens that would each reflect a different life stage.
Before that could happen Frantz needed to get use permits for the land, a process that required laws to be changed, and she had to commit to farming.
As she began to meet other farmers she came to realize that a lot of imperfect crops were wasted each year, giving her the idea to use them for jams, jellies and sauces.
"So the kitchen was started with the idea of helping the farmers," Frantz said.
When she attempted to become a nonprofit she learned that she needed to serve a larger group than just farmers, so in 2010 she expanded her model to serving the public and was granted nonprofit status.
This year everything finally came together. With new funding in January and building permits being granted this month, construction is under way, and if all goes according to plan, the commercial kitchen and farm market will be ready for business in December.
That can't be soon enough as evidenced by the list Frantz already has of people waiting for the kitchen to open, tours lined up from San Francisco, and a travel-cooking group wanting to come from Korea, among others.
"This is not something that's just going to be local," Frantz said. "This may very easily be the first agritourism center in Contra Costa County."
Though this dream could one day become reality, Frantz's initial audience is still a local one, knowing that local, loyal customers create business.
Growing up a "city-girl," Frantz wants to help people like herself who want to learn how to cook with fresh fruits and vegetables and may want something more.
"My target market are people who are interested in a place to come, not just to learn to cook, but for a community.
"That's the one thing I think differentiates Tess' Community Farm Kitchen from other places because we're going to be sharing a lot more than just cooking," she said.
Through the years of this project many people have helped with their support and ideas and Frantz is quick to give them credit.
Though her annual Dinner in the Orchard fundraiser on Aug. 23 was sold-out, Franz hopes the community will continue its support.
This can be done in the form of donations that can help subsidize the cost of classes, and volunteers to assist in a wide range of positions, from housekeeping and data entry to marketing, outreach and acting as sous-chef in cooking classes.
In the name Tess' Community Farm Kitchen, one word that stands out is community.
"That's what Tess' is about, the community coming together and thinking about ways to help one another," Franz said.
"It's less about the cooking and more about creating memories through the cooking."