After a rocky start, the Food Forward Road Trip is finally underway. Finances aren’t fully in place, there are repairs still needed on our Airstream, one of the beds keeps collapsing and the trailer needs new tires, but my family and I are officially out of our house and living in the trailer full time.

Moving from a three-bedroom house into a tiny aluminum trailer has been tough. I long romanticized Airstream travel, and I still have an affection for the vintage trailers, but it’s going to take some getting used to. Living in a trailer is like being on a boat. Everything has to be in its place. If it’s not, it’s in the way.

The biggest challenge has been figuring out the sleeping arrangements. There are two beds: a twin bed that converts into a double bed and a couch that converts into a bed. The double bed is for my wife and me. Or at least it was supposed to be. Deirdre mismeasured when she ordered the mattresses, and on the first night, we discovered at 11pm that it was too wide for the narrow trailer. So we had to sleep on a single mattress. Not nearly as romantic as it sounds after a long and stressful day.

Meanwhile, my two kids slept on the couch bed. Or tried to. The bed is propped up by three freestanding legs. Trouble is, the freestanding legs collapse at the slightest movement. And my two kids (6 and 3) move around a lot, which caused the bed to collapse and send them to the ground. So now Deirdre and I sleep in the couch bed and the kids in the single bed until we can fix both.

In spite of all that, we managed to get out of town and head up the coast from Santa Cruz to our first stop: Pie Ranch. Pie Ranch is a working farm and outdoor education program just outside of Pescadero. It was only a 30-minute drive from Santa Cruz, but it felt like a world away from all the stress associated with the move. Pie Ranch was co-founded by Nancy Vail and Jered Lawson, who live with their kids, Lucas and Rosa, in a beautiful yurt above the farm. Lawson grew up in L.A. and longed for a more rural, closer-to-nature experience. Whenever he went camping as a kid, he knew the natural world was where he wanted to be.

“There was that overwhelming sense that there was something healthier out there,” he said. “I thought it would be great to have the experience of being out in nature and have that be part of my daily life.” And that’s what he did. Lawson went through UC Santa Cruz’s agroecology program, helped establish California’s first community-supported agriculture program at a farm in Mendocino County, worked for the Community Alliance with Family Farmers and just generally tried to live a life that respected the natural world and helped others to do so, too.

Now, he and Vail host hundreds of city kids, giving youth the experience that Lawson longed for when he was young. Many of the kids who come to Pie Ranch have no idea where their food comes from and how it’s grown. Pie Ranch calls itself a “rural center for urban renewal,” and for me the three days at Pie Ranch offered a real sense of renewal and refocus. The stress and difficulties of the road-trip preparations started to fade away. Meeting Lawson and Vail was the perfect first stop on a journey to meet the people who are changing the way we eat.

Next stop: Nine Acre Farm in Oakdale, Calif.
Food editor Stett Holbrook is on the road this summer, traveling in a 1965, 26-foot Airstream trailer with his family to research and promote Food Forward (, a documentary TV series for public television about the people changing our food system, and to represent Boulevards New Media at cities across America. Keep up with him on our Facebook page: