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Daughter Makes Room for Other Grievers at Farm's 'Lost Table'

An urban farmer missing her father launched the “Lost Table” for other grievers to share food, recipes and stories.

A few years after Portland urban farmer Stacey Givens bought the Sideyard Farm, her father, John, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Though she was the youngest of seven kids, she and her dad were close, and he loved visiting her at the farm in Oregon and tinkering with her farm trucks.

John died soon after his diagnosis at age 64. Though his death came quickly after his diagnosis, he was in and out of the hospital several times before the end. He died in 2011, just a couple of years before Givens started the farm. 

Finding it difficult to return to hospitals for grief support, she began to invite friends who had lost someone out to her farm “to cry with her,” and they invited their friends, and the dinners grew.

Givens was raised in a big family with an open door, and without realizing it, she said she was recreating the openness she grew up with, “When I created the farm, I didn’t really think it out and plan it; I just created it,” Givens explained.

The Side Yard farm and kitchen

Finding ‘The Lost Table’

Finally, a couple of years later, she decided to name their gatherings “The Lost Table.” She told us, “We all felt kind of lost, we’re laughing, we’re crying, we’re sharing pictures and are able to connect to one another and not feel lonely in our grief.”

The farm’s setting not only provides an environment that is welcoming to people who are grieving but also serves as a hub for all kinds of folks and activities. “We host so many different things here: brunches, dinners, bike-in movie nights, drag shows, speed dating, CSA pickups, chefs come here to pick up orders … we’re just like this big community hub. People feel safe here. They feel comfortable being themselves, all identities, queer, BIPOC, old, young. It is just such a welcoming place.”

Givens says the monthly grief gatherings of 25 people fill up quickly. People come and share some of their loved ones' special recipes, like a dad’s barbecued ribs or a mom’s lasagna. Strangers exchange contact information, become friends, and arrange walks and hikes together.

“It’s really peaceful at the farm. It's very quiet out here. There’s something about breaking bread with somebody else that makes you feel comforted. It’s this sense of nostalgia and comfort while they are sharing their stories.”

Givens says she’s grateful her father got to see the first couple of years of the farm. Though cut short, their time together helped inspire the welcoming environment of the monthly dinners. She purchased the land in 2020 with help from the United States Department of Agriculture, which had a program for minority and women farmers.

“He flew up here all the time. He was just so proud of me. We talked every day. Never a day went by that I didn’t talk to my dad. He’d lend a hand on the farm and would make a bunch of fried chicken for my friends. He loved up here.”

The Sideyard Farm website has more information about the Sideyard Farm and Lost Table events. The Grief House now coordinates grief dinners. Reservations can be made online.