Paula Soest
Paula Soest

Orange Home Grown board member Paula Soest runs the annual Farmers Market to Table dinner and enjoys the behind-the-scenes work of managing the big event.

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Paula Soest

The person behind Orange Home Grown’s popular Farmers Market to Table Dinner prefers being behind the scenes.  Paula Soest has led the effort, managing the sellout event since its inception.

“The tickets for the annual dinner always sell out fast but last year the event sold out in 24 hours.  I’ve never seen anything like it,” Soest says.

Soest and her husband, Steve, own Soest Guitar, a guitar repair shop in the barn in the backyard of their home in Old Towne Orange.     When Orange Home Grown came about, Soest quickly became involved.

“I got connected with Orange Home Grown by accident, really,” says Soest.  “I was a regular at the farmers market, and I ran into Orange Home Grown Founder Megan (Penn) and told her if she ever needed help with music entertainment at the market, we could help.”

Penn gladly accepted and Soest has been the entertainment booker for the weekly market for the last 12 years.

“Then one day Megan came to me and said we’d like you to be on the board of Orange Home Grown,” says Soest.  “It ended up being the smartest thing I ever did.  This is a wonderful group of hardworking people.  When we decide to do something, we all do it.”

Seven years ago, Soest and Penn were invited to a function in Riverside and that gave them the idea to try a similar dinner in Orange.  The annual event is the big fundraiser for the year, with 250 attendees.

“There are so many moving parts at the dinner, just like with the farmers market, and Paula is like the eyes,” says Penn.  “We are so in the minutiae that it’s nice to have someone pulling back who can see the whole event.”

Ten chefs use produce from Orange Home Grown farmers market vendors to create the appetizers, a main course and desserts.  “They use what’s in season to create the menus,” says Soest.  “It’s very important that we be seasonal.”

The dinner is family style, with long tables and food coming out on big plates to encourage attendees to meet their neighbors.

“We do a special cocktail when you arrive, and we have a big wine wall for people to buy wine before the dinner,” says Soest.  “It’s a ‘bring your own wine’ event so people always have their littler coolers with them.”

The 2024 dinner will take place outside at Chapman University in August with tickets going on sale in May.

“People really enjoy themselves at this dinner having a delicious meal with friends and neighbors while taking in a beautiful evening under the stars,” says Soest.

Article Published in the
Jan / Feb 24 edition of the Old Towne Orange Plaza Review
Written by Sheri Ledbetter Photo by Kristin Smetona
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