When The Perennial opened on January 20, 2016, we weren’t thinking about presidential politics—we were picking the first day that we felt ready to welcome the public to experience a project we’d been working on for years. Now, however, as we approach our first anniversary, Inauguration Day looms over the calendar, dominating most of our thoughts and feelings about January 20.
And yet we feel it’s worthwhile to reflect on the first year of The Perennial. From the beginning, we set out to prove that a sustainable restaurant could be just as delicious as any other restaurant, and we feel that we’ve done that, with national accolades from Bon Appétit and other magazines, plus local love from the press, our peers, and above all, our diners. There have been moments when we’ve worried that our mission has diverted attention from our food and drinks, and other moments when we’ve relished the chance to share our message of regenerative agriculture with the world, like when we spoke at noma's MAD conference, or when we took over the Asian Art Museum with an exhibit on food and sustainability. This has been a year of highs and lows, with a lot of fun and a lot of work. That’s the life of a restaurant.
So, for our first birthday, instead of celebrating on January 20th, we decided to take a trip with our staff over Martin Luther King weekend, which would allow us to celebrate our values: banding together against climate change, with optimism and great food. Along with friends from CUESA, Slow Food SF, and other members of our community, we planted more than 200 redwoods and 150 willows along Stemple Creek in Marin County, as part of an effort to restore the riparian ecosystem and draw down CO2 from the atmosphere with help from perennial plants. (And trees that can live thousands of years are the ultimate perennials.) Then we ate lunch and basked in the sunshine and the beauty. It was a moment to celebrate what we can accomplish, together.
Of course, a few hundred trees will not stop climate change. Neither will a single restaurant, no matter how hard we work. We know this, but we also know that we are onto something hopeful and local, in spite of the alarming news on the national level. What can we do, when our incoming government denies climate change? Well, for one thing, we can organize politically -- but we can also engage in direct action like tree-planting or gardening, or grocery shopping with an eye on climate change. We can create the conditions necessary to support farmers and ranchers whose practices offer our best hope against climate. As we look back on a year at The Perennial, that’s what we believe is important, and that’s what we’re going to work on in the coming year as well. We knew when we started that it we were taking on a big challenge, and we’re going to keep at it, year after year. You know, perennially.