The wind is whipping up a chilled spring rain outside the Farmbar, the white container (sans truck) that’s parked at 1600 Meeting Street on a Friday afternoon. Inside, Tara Derr Webb is dressed in a straw fedora and braided pigtails, blue jeans, and rubber boots and she has the Shovels & Rope live-on-KEXP session playing, loud. She’s ready for others to show up. And they will. It’s something that this former assistant to the Lt. Gov. of California has noticed since she moved to Charleston in 2011. When she meets someone new in this town, they’re always telling her about “three more people you’ve got to meet.”
Then she gets the three—or more—to gather. At her mobile eatery Farmbar for pour-over coffee. At Deux Puces Farm to pat the flat head of Mavis (the now-famed goat pictured in CHARLIE: the 2012 Book). At a Kinfolk dinner where she and her husband, Leighton Webb, are suddenly cooking in a farm field for 30 local designers, chefs, photographers and other creative pros.
Tara, who’s petite and can look a whole lot like Sarah Jessica Parker at times, will tell you she’s a shy person. But she’s got an amazing talent for getting people to pull up chairs at a long table, or hang out around a trailer on upper Meeting, or plunk down on the ground in Awendaw. After that, it’s tricky to remember whether you’re a customer or simply part of the party. “The most exciting thing for me,” she says, “is more freedom and less rules.”
A few aspects of Tara’s low-rule world:
- at a party, get people messy right away. Give them something that they have to lick off their fingers
- names are deep with meaning, or just for fun. Par exemple, she and Leighton are the Deux Puces, “two fleas”
- if you hire another creative pro, share your world with them, but then let them interpret and create their own work
- it’s wonderful when people don’t talk about what they do, but who they are
- and rosé is always the right choice... whether it’s in-the-field wine, dinner wine, really-good-occasion wine.
Charleston is terrific creative ground for Tara, and she keeps digging in to play. Literally. She and her husband are planting fruit trees and raising honeybees along with the goats and chickens at their Awendaw farm. This summer, they’re adding on-the-farm brunches and road trips for the mobile FarmBar.
Tara says she been trying to say yes to everything she can lately—to counteract the shyness. It’s a personal strategy that looks, from here, like it’s working.
“Don’t try to hide,” she tells herself. “Just show up.”
Words by: Sandy Lang
Photography by: Olivia Rae James