Our meet your farmer posts feature a small family farm that we feel exemplifies the type of food system we all need to support. They show passion and dedication to raising and growing food sustainably.
This month we got a chance to go visit Foggy River Farm which is located in the Russian River Valley between Windsor and Healdsburg, CA. Lynda and Emmett Hopkins are two young farmers that grow produce on about 3 1/2 acres in between rows of wine grapes on a flood plain. Lynda recently had a book published called The Wisdom of the Radish which documents their journey becoming farmers, and you can also follow her blog with the same name. She’s also written a guest blog for me on how to milk stand train your goat. It’s hilarious like all of her writing, so go check it out!
What amazed me is that Lynda had never grown anything before becoming a vegetable farmer. Emmett, on the other hand, grew up on the property that they now farm on. Now in their 4th year of farming they clearly know what they’re doing.
They have a very diversified operation. Besides growing vegetables they also raise Nigerian Dwarf goats (we recently brought home one of their does – Sedona), chickens, alpacas and sheep on the hillsides above their home. They just ordered their first flock of heritage turkeys, which I think they’ll be very pleased with. I’m sure they’ll love them as much we do.
They are what I would call “beyond organic.” They don’t use any sprays on their crops, not even organic ones. They aren’t certified organic just because they would prefer not to drown in the paperwork. This is quite common for small family farms. They are truly organic in practice, but just not certified. It’s one of the reasons I think it’s so important to know your farmer. Organic has become industrialized and they can still spray food with toxins – organic toxins are still toxins.
They only grow Spring through Fall because they are on a floodplain. The barn that houses much of their equipment and is the staging area for their CSA will occasionally flood to the second level. They grow a great variety of produce. Currently they have chard, celery, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, carrots, and salad greens growing and a barn full of winter squash. We learned some tricks from them like when growing celery put a milk carton (but the top and bottom off) around the stalks when they are tall enough to just poke out. This will help keep the celery growing tall and straight and since it reduced the sunlight to the stalks they stay more tender. We also learned that we need to be more patient with our Brussels sprouts. Lynda loves the seasonal treats like snap peas and strawberries. Emmett prefers the earthy root vegetables like beets.
During the growing season they sell at several farmers’ markets including Santa Rosa, Windsor and Healdsburg. They also run a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Once a week their CSA members can come to the barn (or they have one pick up location in town) and choose the available produce. The CSA allows them to grow their business without adding more work, unlike farmers’ markets. Instead of scheduling another chunk of time to work a farmers’ market they can, instead, just add more members.
One of things I LOVE about doing these Meet Your Farmer interviews is that we get a chance to learn so much about farming. Right now we’re just urban farmers, but I hope in the not-so-distant future we can follow in their footsteps.