Marc and I had the pleasure of taking a tour of Crescent Moon Farm out in east Santa Rosa. David and Jill rent the land for their one third acre plot and recently added another half acre up the hill a ways. By modern agricultural standards, they are farming a teeny tiny piece of land.
According to the American Farmland Trust’s web site, the average farm size in California is 374 acres. In the last five years or so, I’ve really begun to understand how important it is that we support our local farmers.
Several studies show that fruits and veggies are traveling as much as 1500 to 2500 miles to get to your table. What a waste of fossil fuels and air pollution to truck or ship all that produce. It also means your food is being picked days or weeks before it’s ripe, which really compromises the quality of nutrients and taste. Plus, how do you know what conditions that food is being produced under, and what about the people and animals working and living on those farms?
So, when David invited me to come to their little farm, I jumped at the chance to see where the food I’m buying every week is coming from. David put it best when he said that since the farm is three miles from the Santa Rosa farmers markets at the Veteran’s Memorial Building, his customers are practically eating out of their own back yard.
And what a “back yard” it is. The bees were happily flitting from borage flower to pea flower. The crows were talking away in the big pine tree, and everywhere I stepped was a discovery of yet another kind of herb or vegetable. David and Jill have high standards for their produce, so they may not bring a ton of each item to the market, but what they do bring is beautiful, tasty and the highest quality. With a dozen types of tomatoes, half a dozen different melons, and a couple dozen varieties of sweet or hot peppers, they must grow between 60 and 80 different kinds of fruits and veggies.
Here are those cute Fairy Tale eggplant, that I pictured earlier, growing on the vine.
Loving fresh produce as I do, and being a weekly regular at farmers markets for years, I’m pretty familiar with what grows well in our warm Californian climate. But, David and Jill were growing something I had never heard of, yet alone seen before…Husk Cherries.
Husk cherry plants
They are in the same family as tomatillos and gooseberries, but eaten as a sweet fruit, rather than savory. Here is a picture of just the husk cherries in their husks. They grow on a bush and fall to the ground when ripe. The fruits are encased in a papery covering like tomatillos. We got to taste them and they are sweet with some acidity. They would make great pie filling or preserves.
We also got to see the two varieties of okra that they grow on Crescent Moon Farm. They started growing Burmese green okra, which has less of the typical okra sliminess, but people who bread and fry them, complained.
So, David and Jill planted the gorgeous Red Velvet okra that I talked about in my previous post.
The red velvet tends to be goopier, so all okra connoisseurs can be satisfied. I told David that I know as a consumer, you shouldn’t buy okra longer than about 4 inches, but he said the Burmese is so tender, that it’s still perfect at 8-10 inches long. Actually that’s what I had noticed when I bought them (two weeks in a row, since our household devoured them).
Look how tall the okra grows.
David showed us a small bowl of the beginnings of their shelling beans crop.
In the bowl are the following varieties: Hidatsa Shield Figure (great picture here with a description that mentions the natives planting the three sisters), Tiger’s Eye, Calypso, Good Mother Stollard, True Red Cranberry, Scarlet Runners (which are the large black beans with lavender speckles), and Black Eyed Peas.
David and Jill keep four different kinds of chickens and plan to sell the eggs at the market. I asked if the chickens get to run free. David said only in some areas, otherwise they would eat all the leaves of the crops, and only certain times of day, otherwise they would lay their eggs all over the property.
It was quite a treat to visit the farm and chat with David about unusual produce, organic standards and all the paperwork it requires, and the grueling but rewarding life of a farmer. I realize I am extremely fortunate to have so much amazing produce grown all around me, but no matter where you live, I’m sure you can find good people growing good food practically in your back yard. If you live in this area, Crescent Moon Farm has a stall at the Wednesday and Saturday, Santa Rosa farmers markets, the Sunday Sebastopol market and Thursday Cotati market.
(edit) Yesterday, I forgot to upload a picture of this great volunteer amaranth.
Amaranth is often cultivated for it’s nutrient dense leaves, but in Mexico I have had the stalks battered, fried and covered in delicious fresh salsa. I think the one in this picture looks like it may be flipping us the bird. What do you think?