Getting Settled

After a whirlwind move we are finally settling in to our new apartment in Easton, MD. We moved in just over a month ago but its been hard to catch my breath, let alone get into a normal routine. We have been doing lots:

The shipping container arrived with nothing broke and everything stayed exactly where we had put it, we should have won an award for our excellent packing skills. There is no space for my farm equipment at our place so my father has graciously allowed me to temporarily store all things farm related at his workshop.

Setting up the apartment and getting the various odds and ends that we need has taken the most energy. I do not enjoy finding a place for everything, I wish it was like in the movies where you open the box and your things just float on over to their rightful place. Unpacking box after box is in progress, we still have to unpack office stuff and wall decor plus my record collection continues to be confined to wine boxes.

 

With all the unpacking and moving-in paperwork we have not forgotten the fun part, checking out the local sights. Boat rides on the bay, exploring the many tiny towns, tasting the local food, and visiting the Atlantic ocean. It has been great to have my parents as tour guides, cause I don’t know where anything is.

Choptank riverboat

Farm fair

Soft shell crabs

Brigantine beach

Also being away from the east coast for over a decade there are certain things we forgot how much we missed like thunderstorms (seriously we sat on the porch and watched it like it was movie), lightning bugs (they make you believe in fairies), green grass in the summertime (water falls from the sky here), warm nights (no need to wear layers) and of course the option to put Old Bay on everything (Maryland restaurant tables have 3 shakers; salt, pepper, and old bay)

Soft shell calms aka longnecks

So over all everything has been going really well moving into Maryland. I’m just ready to know where everything is and to finish unpacking the last of our boxes.

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Packed Up and Ready to Go

We have downsized, gotten rid of stuff, and consolidated as much as we could. Of course it is surprising how many possessions we actually have.

Everything has been packed and too our surprise the moving container had empty space leftover … to think we could have kept more stuff! But as many people told me, it is so refreshing to part with items we are no longer using. It allows you to have a clean slate for your next adventure.

I’m excited and invigorated for the change, it doesn’t feel like a struggle or even stressful it just feels natural, like a change in the seasons.

We have said our goodbyes to Sonoma, but I never look at goodbyes as final, just until we meet again. We will soon begin our journey across the country by train. You can follow along via instagram!

 

New Adventure

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.

Farms Speeding By My Window

Last week I returned from a cross country train trip. My husband and I hopped on the California Zephyr train in Davis and rode for three days to Chicago.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

Then switch over to the Capitol Limited train which took a day to get to Washington DC. After a week in Maryland we took the same trains back across the country.

Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

The American landscape that passed by my train window was beautiful, it was hard to do anything other than stare out the window, there was so much to see. The train takes you through urban, suburban, rural, and wilderness areas. I of course was interested in spotting farms.

Cattle somewhere in Illinois

Cattle somewhere in Illinois

I saw many different working farms throughout every landscape. I also saw a lot of old barns falling down, farm houses that had long been abandoned, and surrounding acres overgrown. I can’t say that I was surprised by these sights, over 150 years ago 90 percent of Americans were farmers and today less than 2 percent are involved in agriculture. But I still wondered what happen to that farmer that once built that grand farmhouse and large barn. As a farmer you need a long term view of your farm business and it takes a lot of work and dedication to build it. So these quick glimpses I caught of the past out my train window reminded me of the farmers that came before and the farmers that will come after me.

Farm somewhere in Iowa

Farm somewhere in Iowa

Family Time and Tomato Sauce

Recently my parents were visiting from Maryland. I love having family visit when the field is in full production, they can see and taste all the different crops that are growing. But of course this is also my busiest time of year with long days of harvesting, restaurants to deliver to, and markets to attend.

Even though my parents don’t work in agriculture they have learned over the years that when you visit Andrea during the growing season, you’re gonna have to come to the farm if you wanna spend time with me. Since my parents are awesome, they do just that. Waking early to go to the field to harvest tomatoes from the very tiny to the large and delicate. They help me set up at the farmers’ market and even bringing me coffee as I hustle to assist the customers.

As a farmer you often run into the dilemma of being so busy during the bountiful harvest that you have no time to put up food for the winter. It is a frustrating state, to be surrounded by tons of tomatoes that are soft or split begging to be turned into sauce, with zero time in your schedule, so you dump them into the compost heap. But while my parents were here, my dad was inspired (twice) to make tomato sauce.

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He made enough to keep my cupboards full this winter with jars upon jars of his patent sauce. I sent them back to the east coast with a case of tomatoes and winter squash packed snuggly in their suitcases.

Popcorn Research

While visiting family over the holidays I had the opportunity to go to the National Agricultural Library in Maryland. The National Agricultural Library is one of four national libraries of the United States and houses one of the world’s largest collection devoted to agriculture and its related sciences.

You can see my parent's reflection as they take my photo

You can see my parent’s reflection as they take my photo

I made an appointment to go into the special collections with the purpose of researching old popcorn varieties. When I arrived the librarian presented me with a cart full of seed catalogs dating back to the late 1800’s and glass negatives of images captured during field tests in the early 1900’s. I spent the afternoon with the help of my mom looking through every document on that cart.

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It was amazing to handle and flip through seed catalogs that are over a hundred years old. We found many varieties of popcorn I have never heard of before like Monarch White Rice, Queen’s Golden, and Mapledale Prolific which claims to grow 5 to 12 ears per stalk!

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Just like modern day seed catalogs reading the seed descriptions was very intriguing and mouth-watering, I wish I could place an order with these bygone companies. My hope is to be able to track down these old varieties through the National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation aka the USDA seed bank.

Now theres a cover girl!

Now theres a cover girl!

Hamp Sweet Hamp

Last week I went back to my alma mater, Hampshire College, to celebrate the college’s 45th anniversary. As soon as I got on campus, I headed straight to the farm center. This farm holds a special place in my heart because this is where I fell in love with farming. Once getting a work-study job at the farm, something clicked, and my life’s passion became clear, agriculture.

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It has been a few years since I last wandered around the fields and barns of the college’s farm. I was excited to see how much, has stayed the same since I last worked as a student farm hand. But I was thrilled to see new innovative things happening on the farm, such as the battery-powered tractor and movable greenhouse.

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The farm has expanded vegetable production to 20 acres to accommodate the demand from the dining commons, whose goal is to source nearly 100 percent of food served on campus from within a 150 mile radius.

Nancy Hanson, CSA program manager, giving a farm tour

Nancy Hanson, CSA program manager, giving a farm tour

During my visit I was also reminded how the farm center is such an intricate piece to everyone’s experience of Hampshire College. Anyone can walk through the fields or stop by to visit the animals. Almost every student, professor, and staff person is a member of the CSA. Classes use the farm as a laboratory and everyone seems to have at least one story about their time on the farm. I have a lot of Hampshire College farm stories and I draw upon those experiences quite often to run my own farm. I can’t wait till I can visit the Pioneer Valley again.

Historical Women

I’m often asked, who are my women farmer role models.  I can think of awesome women farmers who are currently farming but I start to draw a blank when I try to think of women farmers who blazed the agricultural trail back in the day.

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Jessie Lopez De La Cruz 1919-2013

So this past March in honor of Women’s History month I decided that I would post photos of women farmers of yesteryear on Quarter Acre’s facebook page.

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Mary Treat 1830-1923

I had grand visions of posting a woman a day and finishing the month with 31 historical women farmers.

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Elizabeth White 1871-1954

Well this project turned out to be harder than I thought.  A simple google search doesn’t really give you any results.  Instead, searching for lady farmers involved a lot more digging.

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Juanita Nelson 1923-2015

I found many by searching for the men they were compared to.  For example Theodosia Shepherd who founded the California seed industry is labeled the female Luther Burbank.

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Theodosia B. Shepherd 1845-1906

I also realized that it was hard to track down women farmers because that occupation was not consider something of note.

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Eva Kenworthy Gray 1863-1951

Many of the women farmers I was able to find were typically listed in the history books for something else and farming was only mentioned as an after thought.

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Mary Elizabeth Lease 1850-1933

Such as Alva Belmont  who holds a place in history books because she was a socialite and suffragette. But Alva happen to also be the founder of a training school for female farmers, which I learned from various newspaper articles from the 1900’s.

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Alva Belmont 1853-1933

 

I researched as much as could with any free time had in front of the computer but by the end of the month I had only found a total of 12 wonderful women.

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Maxidiwiac aka Buffalo Bird Woman 1839-1932

It is not a very large number but it pique my interest in continuing to learn more about agricultural women of the past.

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Anna Larroucau Laborde de Lucero 1864-1956

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Igay Duana 1921-2002

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Helen Nearing 1904-1995

CCOF Policy Day

This past Wednesday, I was up at the state capital for CCOF’s policy day.  The day began with a keynote address by the Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, Karen Ross.  She spoke about how California led the way for the national organic program and how certified organics have grown over the years.

Karen Ross, Secretary of CDFA

Karen Ross, Secretary of CDFA

Next many CCOF certified growers/ handlers and I headed to the offices of our elected officials. We met with senators and assembly members to share our stories of successes and challenges in the organic industry. We asked each senator and assembly member to support our request to host a joint informational hearing on the economic challenges and opportunities of organic agriculture in California.

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It may seem odd to request an informational hearing on organics but during our meetings it was clear that our elected officials are not only unfamiliar with the facts and figures regarding certified organic agriculture but they were uninformed about the challenges currently effecting farmers both new and established. To me this reinforced the importance of these meetings as a way for our elected officials to see the faces of organic production in California. Even in our age of technology with multiple ways to communicate, a face to face meeting is still the best way to communicate your message.

Governor Jerry Brown stopped by to say hello

Governor Jerry Brown stopped by to say hello

Museum Hopping

During the holidays I was back east, spending time with my family. This year in between the holiday festivities, I was determined to visit Washington DC. When I was a kid I spent many a school field trip trekking from Smithsonian to Smithsonian.

Heading into DC with the parents

Heading into DC with the parents

So on a real cold grey day, I bundled up and headed into the city with my parents on the Metro.  We first headed into the Smithsonian Castle which held a collection of souvenirs from various relics.  They had a great display of seed catalogs.

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Next stop was the Native American Smithsonian whose exhibitions are designed in collaboration with Native communities from across the hemisphere. I was amazed to find that their cafe features Native foods.  It is organized into five food stations that depict regional life-ways related to cooking techniques, ingredients, and flavors found in the indigenous cuisines of the Americas.

My souvenir POPCORN

My souvenir POPCORN

Then we headed to the National Botanical Gardens which has a huge glass conservatory. It houses collections of plants from tropical to arid regions and showcases orchids, medicinal, endangered plants.  For the holidays they had replicas of the capital’s landmark buildings made out of various plant materials, like twigs and pinecones, way better than gingerbread in my opinion.

The Lincoln Memorial

The Lincoln Memorial

As a farmer I don’t get to visit museums as often as I’d like.  But I find viewing history and artifacts a great way to see beyond yourself and redefine your business goals.