Growing up on her family’s ranch, Elizabeth Poett happily spent her childhood gathering cows, climbing trees and helping her mother cook and host events both big and small at their 14,000-acre historic ranch just south of Lompoc in Northern Santa Barbara County. The ranch, known as Rancho San Julian, is one of the oldest family-run ranches in California and has remained dedicated to raising cattle for more than 200 years.
Today, the seventh-generation rancher runs Rancho San Julian Beef, selling her family’s ranch-raised, grass-fed beef directly to chefs and consumers, but it’s Poett’s love of cooking, hosting events and gathering people together that led her to start The Ranch Table Gatherings. Held at Rancho San Julian, The Ranch Table Gatherings offers a series of workshops and events centered around California culture, history, traditions and the bounty of the Central Coast.
“Historically, the Ranch has been a place to celebrate and gather,” shares Poett, who enjoys cooking for friends and family using the varied ingredients found on the ranch, such as vegetables, fruits and grass-fed beef. “I wanted to start working more with the people in our region, cultivating a place to gather together, enjoy locally-grown food and appreciate the natural beauty of our surroundings while learning something, too.” She adds, “Starting these workshops felt like a great way to diversify, allowing me to expand upon my passions for local food and entertaining while sharing our history and ranch with the community around us.”
Prior gatherings have included a Summer Strawberry Gathering, where guests enjoyed tea and strawberry shortcakes while learning the art of strawberry jam making, as well as Food Writing on the Ranch, a deep dive into the different styles of food writing, led by Poett and food writer/cookbook author, Georgia Freedman.
This fall, The Ranch Table hosts a Grass-Fed Beef Gathering on September 16, offering attendees a chance to learn about the various cuts of meat and what makes grass-fed beef different before enjoying a Santa Maria-style barbecue under the 100-year-old arbor.
The October 6 gathering is a Pumpkin Patch Brunch, a family-friendly event in the middle of the Ranch’s pumpkin patch, where 15 different varieties—from heirloom to classic Jack-‘O-Lantern—are grown. The pumpkin patch is also open to the public every Saturday in October.
While the purpose of these gatherings is to create a place where food, history, tradition and community converge in the beautiful setting of the historic ranch, Poett shares that a percentage of all workshop costs go directly to the preservation of the ranch, “to help us maintain the land, the historic buildings and our local history for generations to come.” theranchtable.com/gathering.
This story was originally published in the fall 2018 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.