Dining At The Ravens: How Jeff and Joan Stanford Followed Their Dreams To Create A Sustainable, Plant-Based Inn and Restaurant


Jeff and Joan Stanford had few resources to their name and a baby on the way when they purchased an ocean-side inn in Mendocino back in 1980.

The only way they were able to pull it off was with a loan to cover a good portion of the downpayment, lent to them by the previous owner.

But they followed their hearts and went for it.

Fast forward 30 years, and they’ve transformed the property into the Stanford Inn by the Sea — a renowned Four Diamond Inn dedicated to sustainable living.

Along the way they added a gourmet farm-to-table restaurant and grew their gardens into a full-fledged organic certified farm that provides fresh produce to the restaurant as well as nearby establishments.

Their restaurant, called The Ravens, is a 100% plant-based eatery that contends with the finest dining establishments in Northern California.

The Ravens strives to show guests from all corners of the globe that plant-based living is ready for the mainstream. Their fare is a testament to how delicious, versatile and satisfying plant-based dishes can be.

Dining At The Ravens

Jeff and Joan have a new recipe book out that gives you a glimpse into the delectable tried and true dishes served daily at the Stanford Inn.

And while some books hit the shelves with the recipes untested, these dishes have had to earn their spot on The Ravens menu, served to hundreds of guests and refined to perfection.

I sat down to talk with this super fun and sweet couple about this project to which they’ve dedicated most of their lives, how their vision has changed over the years and what inspires them to keep at it after all these years.

Sitting Down With Jeff and Joan

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Show notes:

Enter To Win A Free Copy Of Dining At The Ravens

Joan and Jeff and their publisher Ben Bella have been gracious enough to provide a copy of Dining At The Ravens to our community, and you can enter to win!

We’ll choose a winner by random drawing on Thursday March 17th, 2016.

UPDATE: We have a winner, congrats Kathy M!

Here’s how to enter:

  1. Sign up for the email list using the form below. If you are already subscribed, you do NOT have to subscribe again.
  2. Leave a comment below letting us know the following: Have you ever put yourself out there and followed a crazy dream? Have a dream you haven’t yet pursued? Tell us about it!

*Note: Giveaway is only open to residents of the US and Canada

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Matt Jager is a wellness activist, yogi and co-founder of True Wellth. His life mission is to transform the healthcare and food system in this country, so that every single person has access to the tools and support they need to look and feel their best, control their health, own their happiness and revolutionize their well-being.
  • EmiRey

    I’ve never put myself out there for a crazy dream unfortunately… I did want to teach English in Korea one or two years back just for the experience of living somewhere else and on my own in another country! Recently I’ve been dreaming about going to one of those international yoga retreats.

    • I’d love to do an international yoga retreat too! Where would you want to go?

      • EmiRey


        • Whoa, hadn’t considered Dubai for a yoga retreat! Will have to take a look 🙂

  • Kim Korstjens

    The craziest dream I followed was studying abroad and backpacking in South America.

    • How fun! I studied abroad in Ecuador for a year and loved it. Where did you do your study abroad program?

  • Kayla

    I have followed a crazy dream 🙂 I actually wrote a post about my reflection about the whole adventure on my Facebook page for the 10 year anniversary and here it is (I hope it’s not too lengthy for anyone):

    January 06, 2006. This was one of the most life altering days I have ever experienced. It was the day that I was placed into the foster care system in Alabama. As a new ward of the state, I possessed a mixture of emotions: fear, pain, numbness, and oddly enough, strength. I faced moving three different times to live with three different families and attend two different high schools in just a matter of sixteen months. The summer after I graduated from high school, I dedicated my efforts to working full-time to save as much money as possible to help support myself for college expenses. Right before my departure for college, I was unexpectedly removed from the foster care system (due to attending college out of state) which meant that I could not receive any medical benefits or monthly funds for support that I should have received until the age of 21. I knew in my heart through prayer and faith that the move to Maryland was what I needed to do and where I needed to be. Without the financial support of parents or family, I was responsible for myself. With the shock of being on my own as a legal adult and the determination to succeed no matter the cost, I made the leap of faith.

    The day arrived for my departure to Maryland. It was a place that I had never been before and I was going to school with people I did not know. With eyes full of tears and a heart filled with excitement and fear for the unknown, I said farewell to the people that I shared many cherished experiences with and grew to love so dearly. My carry-on bag simply held a delicate box of hand written notes of love and encouragement from my church family and friends (which I still have after all of these years). The day that I packed three bags and boarded the one-way flight from a place that the whole 18 years of my life had been, life has never been the same. It was an opportunity to not forget who I was, where I had been, or the people I had known, but rather to embrace a new chapter that allowed for me to make the life I had always wanted for myself.

    Over the quick time frame of ten years, I have been able to share chapters of my life with some of the most amazing and kindest people that I think the world has to offer. I attended a school for three years where I gained hands-on experiences serving the homeless, educating troubled youth, and encouraging the elderly populations of Baltimore and surrounding areas. Traveling opportunities have allowed for me to serve Haitian refugees and children at a special education school in the Bahamas, families and orphaned children in the slums of Africa, and individuals who are less fortunate and discouraged throughout the United States. I shared many life enriching and character building experiences with people I considered family that showed me a world outside of the culture, values, and experiences that I was familiar with in the United States. I was shown unbiased compassion and friendship as we ventured through Germany, Austria, Italy, and the Netherlands. They helped shape who I am today and I am forever grateful for them.

    In 2012, I graduated with Cum Laude Honors and my Bachelors of Science Degree after years of many sleepless nights and working multiple jobs. Other experiences that have helped shape my character have been my time of working at retirement communities with the elderly, going to school to become a Clinical Skin Care Consultant, interning on Capital Hill at my congressman’s office, and finally meeting the person who God created for me. My husband and I have a beautiful marriage that is based on friendship, love, and communication. He is my family and I also have many other families to call my own here in Maryland as they all have adopted me as one of their own.

    I am reminded of a Jane Siberry song that goes like this, “Do we have faith, In what we believe?, The truest test, Is when we cannot, When we cannot see…It won’t rain all the time, The sky won’t fall forever, And though the night seems long, Your tears won’t fall forever.”

    Whoever you may be with your own personal life experiences and circumstances with whatever belief system you may stay true to, just know that it can’t rain all the time. Despite how hopeless a situation may appear, how discouraged you may be, or how far the road may be that you have to travel in that chapter of your life, it is only for a season.

    One particular scripture I have always held on to is Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” You can do anything you set your mind to do. There are kind people in this world despite all of the hatred and selfishness we witness each day. Hold on, don’t look back, and believe in yourself.

    I know for myself, the strength I possessed at the beginning of this story truly did stem from my relationship with Jesus Christ. I could not have done it without him walking with me. You see, with the amount of adversities I faced, there was no way that I could forecast what beauty and hope the future held for me. There was no way that I could have been successful without the love and support of those who have shared this journey with me. I am not able to tag everyone but you know who you are and how much I value you. My journey still continues today as I have discovered my passion for health advocacy and helping people find freedom in food. Just as people never gave up on my during my journey, I extend that same example to others with helping them on their journey to a long, healthy, and happy life.

    • Debbie

      Thank you.

    • Kayla, thank you for sharing this. What a moving story. It can be hard to take the leaps, but it helps so much to have the support and encouragement of our loved ones. I’m so glad you’ve had that and have grown to do so much and help so many people.

  • Kathy Friedman Bogardus

    In the last year, my husband and I moved from the suburbs to a rural property. After taking a permaculture design class, we have ordered our seeds, tilled the land and getting ready to build a chicken coop for the chickens this spring. Sustainability living here we come! So outside my comfort zone!

    • This is one of my dreams too Kathy. I grew up on a couple different farms and love rural living. So cool to hear you are taking a permaculture approach. Please keep me updated, I’d love to hear how it goes!

      • Kathy Friedman Bogardus

        I will 🙂

  • JoshandCharity

    We followed our dream in 2014, when we sold our house and moved to Hawaii. Our family of four has enjoyed the year-round sunshine, ocean breezes, and spending more time together, as a family. We are enjoying this new chapter in our life story.

    • Wow! I’ve never been to Hawaii, but it’s on my bucket list. Glad to hear you are enjoying it so much.

  • Leslie Snare

    I just started following my crazy dreams this year! I’m back in school to become a health coach and plan on starting my own coaching biz by 2017! What a miracle that this article came out. It’s the universe talking to me!

    • Very cool Leslie, what program are you in? We have a big job ahead of us transforming the health of our nation and our planet, but together we can do it. Congrats on taking the leap 🙂

      • Leslie Snare

        Thanks Matt! I am studying at IIN and also enrolled in B-school! I’m so passionate about healthy sustainable living and I want to help others find their path to wellness!

        • Nice, Regan is currently in IIN as well and B-School helped me get started with this website. Good programs!

          • Leslie Snare

            Awesome. I’m glad you think both programs are worthwhile. They’ve definitely had a huge impact on me already.

          • Yes, I think they are definitely worthwhile. And at the end of the day it just comes down to taking consistent action and putting yourself out there. That was (and continues to be) the hardest part for me.

          • Leslie Snare

            I completely understand. It’s not easy to put yourself out there even if it’s for a business or lifestyle that you’re passionate about 🙂

  • Heiho

    I’m already signed up for the emails – that’s how I heard about this giveaway. I don’t expect I’ll have much chance at winning if it’s based on my dreams, since I’m not up for going big. Daily living is tough enough in this economy and political climate. Small dream would be to convince my family members to eat more of the whole foods plant-based diet that would do them and the planet so much good. Personal dream is to keep the garden in flowers as close to year round as possible in Maryland Zone 6. Doing better at that one!

    • Hi Heiho, thanks for the comment. The drawing is random so you’ll have just as much of a chance as everyone else. Helping family members eat in a way that is good for them and the planet is a fantastic dream and no small feat! Wishing you success.

  • Maria Fletcher

    I’m already subscribed. I’m originally from the UK and in my 20s, while on vacation in Grand Cayman, I was offered a job working in a dive store. 6 weeks later, after renting my apartment, resigning from my job and breaking up with my boyfriend I moved out to the island. The reason I decided to do something so scary was I wanted to have stories to tell my grandchildren. I wanted to inspire them to go out and live life.
    I now live in the US and work in the luxury yacht industry – something I would never thought possible when growing up in England.
    I do have a couple of future dreams…I’m a runner and one of my dreams is to qualify for Boston, which is quite a feat. And the other, is to run a marathon in all 50 States, something I’m currently working on (3 down, 47 to go!), haha.

    • How cool! What a great story for the grandkids 🙂 I love these kind of big dreams. Wishing you success with qualifying for Boston and the marathons in all 50 states. Keep us updated!

  • Julie Bodnar

    I’m already signed up. And here’s my dream that is currently a work in process. After practicing law for over 30 years, raising my kids, helping family,…I went through a one-year health coaching program with the intent of educating people with ways of improving their health. I have always been into fitness, health & great cooking and just decided it was time to do what I was passionate about. After becoming vegan/plant-based 4 years ago, I have been trying to incorporate plant-based cooking instruction and education as the primary element of my coaching. I’m still stuck on the marketing and delivery, but I’m intent on making this work. If I can get clients to eat more vegetables/fruits/grains/legumes, and educate them on where their food comes from – I am happy. I try and meet clients where they are and make sustainable improvements over time. From my one-on-one experience with clients, education is critical.

    • Awesome Julie! So great that you are doing what you love and helping others. We share the philosophy of meeting people where they are and making sustainable improvements over the time.

  • Michelle

    already signed up, I quit my job and went back to school. Other than that my life is pretty planned out. Not that it ever works out like the plan, but nothing crazy like quitting my job and moving to Paris.

    • Nice Michelle! What did you go back to school for?

  • Joey Daye Cross

    Hi, I already receive your emails. I’ve had a lot of crazy dreams and then I had kids… ha! Finally they are at an age where I can start fulfilling some of them. I’m currently working on a blog that will chronicle my journey into veganism, awareness, the environment, health, and more. I think it’s important for them to witness me fulfilling them, so they can feel inspired to do the same. Thanks for your blog and the article on the Ravens. I would love to visit the inn with my family someday!

    • Awesome Joey, have you launched your blog yet? Share the link if so, I’d love to take a look.

  • Kathy Martorano

    Already signed up….. Last May I decided to follow my dream and retired from the job I worked at for 17 yrs. in Colorado, sold my house that I loved, moved to Michigan to live with my son, daughter in law and two grandsons. It was scary to make all those big life changes but I do not regret them and love being with the family.

    • Big move Kathy, so glad you are able to be with family. I’m realizing more and more how important that is.

    • Kathy, you’ve been selected as the winner for the giveaway! Please send your mailing address to info@dontlosethecow.com and we’ll send you a copy of Dining At The Ravens.

  • Paul Foster

    Hi, I followed my dream 8 years ago. I retired from 24 years of service in the military, got a BS in Exercise Science and became a certified personal trainer. I’ve been doing it ever since. I love the world of nutrition and fitness and their synergistic effects in improving our health. I am in the midst of a 10-day plant based diet “experiment” with some of my clients and look forward to sharing our “results” with others.

    • Nice Paul, congrats on making the leap and would love to hear about your 10-day experience.

  • Teresa McKessey

    I did 2 dreams in one 8 years ago, a missions trip to a third world country and visiting Israel ( was on the way to Ethiopia!) . Now I am publishing a book, a very put myself out there thing for me ! I raised my six children on natural health principles and have shared with and inspired many along the way to a healthier lifestyle. This has been a passion of mine, to share natural health principles, so have even taught classes in many venues. I have finally compiled the information I share into an eBook , that is now in the process of being edited and then printed and put into Kindle format. I am excited and a little scared at the same time, but going for it!!

    • How cool Teresa, writing a book is on my bucket list as well. Must be amazing to be close to the finished product. Let me know when it’s available, would love to take a look.

  • Me & My House

    Already a subscriber. I don’t know how crazy my dreams are, but I am living my dreams through each season of life. I’ve been at home with my children teaching them life and health principles and teaching others as time allowed. Now as my children are getting nearly all grown, I am pouring more into teaching natural health to others, including traveling more to do so, and expanding my blog and writing. I’m also considering pursuing “credentials” for added credibility in my health teaching/coaching. — On a total other plane, I recently joined our community theater, and have done a couple productions.