Thursday, February 17, 2011

Green String Farm in Petaluma, CA

Last Saturday, on a gorgeous late winter day, Katherine and I decided to take a drive to Green String Farm, a teaching farm about 17 minutes from Sonoma, whose philosophy is “to focus on aiding, rather than fighting, natural processes to grow healthy and happy fruits and vegetables.”

The program began with a short presentation by Michael Dimock, the head of Roots of Change (ROC), an organization dedicated to creating a sustainable food system in California by 2030. Dimock is an enthusiastic spokesperson for ROC, for sustainable agriculture and for the work Green String is doing to educate young people. Check out his web site. It is very impressive and his ROC e-newsletter is great as well.

Bob Cannard who owns and runs Green String Farm (and has been supplying Chez Panisse with lettuces longer than most of the farm’s interns have been alive) was up next. He immediately requested questions. What he was asked and the detailed answers he gave were way beyond my level of gardening expertise or interest. I’m probably not going to restore minerals to my backyard by grinding up volcanic rocks, for example. But his tip to hold off working my home garden until the soil has the chance to dry out was great. Working wet soil compacts it and makes it impossible for plants to grow. OK, I get that.

It was just fine to hear these two guys talking about care of the land and our food. I’m right there with them on the issues and principles. But I must say that it was the farm itself and the people who had come to visit it that truly captured by heart and gave me hope for the future:

The goats, the chickens, and some two-week-old ducks being hustled along by a young man who seemed devoted to their safety and well-being.

The beautiful vegetables and jams in the farm store and the beet floats, kim chi and jam samples being offered by the people who grew the produce and made the food.

And most of all by the number of young people and families with young kids who were there to support a new kind of agriculture and a new way to provide food for themselves and their communities, and who really wanted to understand the intricacies of sustainable farming. “Beyond sustainable,” as a sign at the entrance reads. While the older generation can provide inspiration and precious experience, it is the younger ones who will put this system to work on urban and suburban homesteads and on local farms across the country. Hurrah for them!

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