Over 12 years ago I moved to California with hopes of following my passion for local food systems and working in the field of agriculture. I started off creating edible gardens for restaurants and private estates. I hung around farmers markets to meet producers and fellow local food lovers. When the opportunity to lease land appeared, I jumped at the chance to start my very own farm. Through 10 seasons and many different parcels of land, I honed my farming skills to bring tasty organic produce and seedlings to my community. Through hard work and a bit of luck I was able to achieve my goal of becoming active in the sustainable agricultural scene in the Bay area.
Over the years my passion for agriculture has continued to grow and my dream of becoming a lifelong farmer has never wavered. Farming is a business and when you look at your farm operation as a business you realize how important stability is to your continued success. Without financial sustainability, no farm is truly sustainable.
I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out how I can have a secure farming future. I came to the realization that I can’t continue to farm in California on leased property and as a farmer I can’t afford to own land here. This July I will be moving back east to Maryland, where I have the ability to purchase farmland. I will begin farming again in 2019 on the Eastern Shore.
It is bittersweet to leave the west coast where I refined my farming skills and where I have met so many wonderful people (including my husband). But I am excited to return to my home state to start a new farm and continue my agriculture adventure!
I will continue to make blog posts along the way and share my new discoveries so keep reading and keep in touch. If you are more of a picture person, follow my adventure on instagram.
Spring is here … or maybe summer I’m actually wearing shorts as I type this, hello 80 degree weather. This spring my workload looks a little different. I’m not sweating it out in the greenhouse but staring it out, at the computer screen.
I have been developing client’s 2018 crop plans, which involves meeting with them to discuss their vision for their farm or garden as well as determining their must haves, when it comes to produce harvest. After the meeting I spend time with spreadsheets calculating their seed and plant need, I figure out their seed and transplant order, then create their planting schedule, and draw up their crop map. All of this gives each of my clients a detailed plan of what to buy, how to prepare, when to plant, and an estimated date for their first harvest of each of their crops.
I have also completed my taxes … yay. Like most people preparing one’s taxes is a drag. But this year it went a lot quicker because I did I really good job of keeping up on my bookkeeping during the 2017 growing season. And I don’t naturally think “Oh, lets enter invoices instead of watching another episode of <insert favorite TV show>”. So to make sure I recorded my sales, expenses, and deductions in a timely manner, I created a daily habits tracker which included bookkeeping. When I completed the task I rewarded myself with a sticker … that’s right a sticker! Hey, what works to motivate preschoolers also works for 30-somethings.
With spring weather comes the urge for spring cleaning. I have sorted through my seed bins removing expired seeds and cataloging the remaining packets. I have been purging random farm supplies that I have been keeping for years even though I have not used them years. I have even taken the time to try to organize my office getting rid of old papers and filing others away, so I can actually find them when I need them. Even though I’m not busy mowing and tilling my field, there is something about spring that just motivates you to get ready and prepare for the coming year.
Since I’m not farming this year I have realized that I’m spending a lot of time inside. Working on the computer, reading books, organizing farm supplies, and other random indoor activities. This sedentary work is not new I have always spent plenty of time indoors during February. But the difference this year is I don’t have the farm work to force me to go outside. This might seem like a no-brainer but I just didn’t realize that without my normal farm work, I would not be automatically getting fresh air and exercise.
Quarryhill Botanical Garden
My close friends know I don’t consider myself an “outdoorsy person” never doing an activity that requires physical effort unless the farm required it, I would never join a gym or make time to go exercise. But between all the computer work and this ridiculously sunny warm weather we have been having, my body has been aching to get outside and move around. So recently I started listening to the demands of my body and making time to go outside for long walks and even a few hikes. I’m still not gonna join a gym but I have begun to schedule exercise into my week.
Overlooking Sonoma Valley
Friends, I have some news. I’ll be taking a sabbatical from Quarter Acre Farm in 2018. After 10 growing seasons, it’s time for a little step back to dream, plan, and strategize about the future of my farm. I’m so grateful to all of my customers, friends, and followers for your support, and I promise I’ll be back with updates!
Now that it’s the end of the season it seems like eons ago that I was getting the field ready for the beginning of the growing season. Even though it was just 10 months ago that I was starting tomato seeds in the greenhouse and about 7 months ago that I was planting popcorn kernels in the field. Now everything has been mowed down or has been killed by the frost.
Tomato field past its prime
The growing season is always a whirlwind but it still has an undeniable rhyme. With the arrival of spring the daylight grows, egging you on to become more active and get outside to work. The heat of summer pushes everything to grow big and lush including your energy level. Fall shows up colorful but exhausted, encouraging you to slow down. Then winter with its cold short days shoos you inside to stay cozy and inspires you to reflect. Even though I may fight these seasonal urges at first, I quickly give in because it is exactly what my body is demanding my mind to do.
Popcorn field through the seasons
So as winter approaches, it’s officially 10 days away, I have started to review the growing season, celebrating my achievements and figuring out how to better address the challenges.
The final harvest from the farm happened weeks ago but there is still work to be done out there. Before the field can be put to bed for the season, the irrigation must be removed. All the drip tape that runs the length of every bed must be picked up. After providing crops with months and month of water the drip tape is now pretty much covered in weeds.
So for me, drip tape removal involves a lot of pulling and dragging, not my favorite activity, but it’s gotta be done. If you leave the drip irrigation in the field over winter it will disappear, until you go to mow or rototill and then it gets stuck in all your equipment.
Drip tape ready to be recycled
Unfortunately removing drip tape is a much slower task than it is to install it in the spring. So between the rainy days, the labor involved in removing irrigation, and my love for procrastinating tasks I dislike; it may be sometime before the field gets cleaned up this season.
Thursday was a day filled with food, family, and friends. For me, Thanksgiving has always been a celebration of food.
During the days leading up to the big feast I search for all the ingredients both in my field, at neighboring farms, local grocery stores, and the farmers market. Every time I thought I had everything I needed I realized something was missing, so back to the store I went. With a kitchen stuffed with seasonal ingredients plus some avocados for a little guacamole, we were ready. We spent all Thursday preparing food for the big feast. It was all hands on deck with everyone lending their various skills to help make a delicious meal.
It is a family tradition to start the day with mimosas, ceviche, and guacamole.
As a farmer I look at Thanksgiving as a commemoration of the year’s bounty both in food and in friendship. Sitting together at a long table passing bowls and platters overflowing with deliciousness, we reminisce about the last time we all got together as a family. Chatter quickly fills the room that is already bursting with delectable food, amusing people, and love.
My dad and I at the pre-Thanksgiving farmers market
After a long wait you can now get your hands on some tasty certified organic Quarter Acre Farm heirloom popcorn.
I sold out of the 2016 harvest of heirloom popcorn months ago and just like my customers when I sell out of popcorn I too have no popcorn in the my own house. So I have been waiting and watching the popcorn like a hawk since I planted it back in May. Once planted popcorn takes about 100 days to reach maturity. Then it has to dry on the stalk until the husk turns brown. After it is harvested I begin to shuck it as I wait for it to dry even more. Popcorn won’t POP if there is too much moisture in the kernel. I test random kernels by trying to pop them on the stove top. Once I get constant pops, it’s time to shell the kernels off the cob.
Well I shelled the popcorn this week and have been busy bagging up the beautiful kernels for market. Heirloom popcorn has a delicious flavor some say it’s a bit nutty or buttery but its scrumptious taste, makes all other popcorn just seem bland. This year I have Pennsylvania Dutch Butter which is a pale yellow and pops yellow and Dakota Black whose kernels are a mahogany color and pops white plus a new variety Smoke Signals which is multi-colored and pops a creamy white. Now that my house is fully stocked with popcorn I have been eating a bowl every night.
If you can’t make it to the market the popcorn is available for sale on etsy,
shipping anywhere within the Untied States.
As a farmer your main focus tends to be getting your product out of the field and into the hands of your customers.
I’ve lost count on how many times I’ve come home from a long day of harvesting and delivering produce to find my kitchen, severely lacking vegetables. Or after a busy morning selling produce at the farmers’ market (surrounded by fellow rock star farmers and amazing food vendors) only to realize I forgot to buy a single item off my grocery list. Like many farmers I find the access to fresh local produce to be an awesome job benefit, if I can remember to access it.
When I do bring produce home to eat, it tends to be “seconds”; fruit that is misshapen, leaves that bugs have chewed on, and other aspects that generally make the items undesirable for market. Your farm business mentality is to sell everything that is sellable. Well, this fall I spotted two beautiful blue pumpkins in the field that I immediately knew I wanted all for myself. As I watched them grow I kept feeling a pang of guilt that I would not market these beauts. But by the time they were ready to harvest, all my guilt had washed away. As I hauled them into my truck I was beaming with pride knowing I had the perfect place for them by my doorstep.
I have been harvesting bushels and bushels of pumpkins and gourds. At the farmers’ market you will see the tables in my booth overflowing with these classic autumn symbols.
But what you won’t see much of is winter squash. I was only able to have a modest harvest because I let the weeds take over those rows in the field. The winter squash plants were too small and the weeds grew too tall blocking the sunlight. On the farm you have to prioritize tasks and when the winter squash needed to be weeded the cherry tomatoes needed to be harvested and taken to market, it was a tough decision but those sweet tomatoes won. So the winter squash was on its own to fend off the weeds.
In other farm news, I have finally gotten all the popcorn harvested and now I’m busy shucking it all. With a half an acre worth of popcorn shucking takes many hours. Since I’m pretty obsessed with heirloom corn, removing each husk is like unwrapping a gift, it’s a surprise to see what colorful pattern the kernels will be in. I hope to have it shelled and ready for market by early November.
Smoke Signals popcorn