When Tracy Lerman met Leon Vehaba at the Hazon Food Conference in December 2008, she expressed surprise that they hadn’t crossed paths before. Both were Jewish ex-New Yorkers living in Santa Cruz and involved with farming.
At the time, Lerman, now 36, was working for the Santa Cruz–based Organic Farming Research Foundation. Vehaba, now 34, was managing the Everett Family Farm in Soquel, after completing a farming apprenticeship at U.C. Santa Cruz. Vehaba was dating someone, and Lerman was embracing being single after ending a long relationship.
A few months went by, and spring arrived. Lerman and Vehaba started to bump into each other around town, most often at the farmers market. One time, a mutual friend, Emily Freed, invited them both for a drink. By then Vehaba was single, and even though Freed nudged Lerman to consider him (she had an inkling they would make a great couple), Lerman wasn’t interested. As she told Freed: He wasn’t the kind of guy you just casually date, he was the kind of guy you end up marrying — and she wasn’t looking for a serious relationship at that point.
Then came an invitation to the same Shabbat dinner — which turned about to be a bit too “woo-woo” for their liking — so the two left early. Vehaba offered to show Lerman and a friend around Everett Family Farm. By then it was dark, and Vehaba impressed Lerman by extending his hand when she needed it, and by his extensive knowledge of the different varieties of strawberries (Albion versus Seascape, for those who are interested in such things).
They finally did go on their first date: Vehaba asked Lerman to attend the Santa Cruz premiere of the documentary “Food, Inc.” Little did he know that she had been invited to speak after the screening, and was bringing along her intern and her intern’s mom. The four of them sat together.
Vehaba says that Lerman initially played hard to get, and she agrees. She wasn’t playing games, she says, she just didn’t think she was ready to meet her future husband. Eventually something shifted and she realized she shouldn’t let this one get away.
When Lerman was accepted at U.C. Davis to get a master’s degree in community development (studying how to support organic farmers), Vehaba went with her. He currently works on U.C. Davis’ organic farm, and is recruiting high school students and undergraduates to apply for the new sustainable agriculture program there. Lerman will complete her degree in December.
The couple married Aug. 19 at Everett Family Farm. During the ceremony, Vehaba’s father — an Israeli immigrant in New York — choked up when he wrapped the couple in a tallit belonging to the groom’s grandfather, who wasn’t up for the long journey from Israel.
The bride, who says she is “not a super girly girl,” wore cowboy boots under her wedding gown, and got a few of her friends to follow suit since the farm wasn’t particularly heel-friendly.
Almost all of the food served at the wedding was organic and locally grown — some by the groom at U.C. Davis, much of it by their friends who work on neighboring farms in the Santa Cruz area. Same with the locally grown dahlias that decorated the affair.
The groom, who has developed a serious brewing hobby, brewed all the beer for the wedding. A chalkboard displayed the varieties of the “T n’ L Brewing Company,” offering India pale ale, porter, pale ale and apricot wheat. Instead of a Champagne toast, they offered mead, another beverage the groom had brewed. Fruit pies from Watsonville’s Gizdich Ranch were served for dessert, rather than wedding cake.
Each guest went home with a small sack of herb salt — a business venture of the couple’s close friend Freed (aka Farmer Freed).
And a final touch: Escort cards were affixed to the lids of jars. When guests found their way to their tables (each named after a type of produce), the jars became their drinking vessel, perfect for a cold cup of Vehaba’s home brew.
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