Visit a Farm in the Bay AreaBy
I got to visit a farm! A real live family owned farm right here in the Bay Area. I also got to meet a real live farmer. Her name is Tara Smith. I want to be like Tara when I grow up. She is amazing and so incredibly inspirational. Tara started her farm less than a year ago. Before being a farmer she was working in Long Term Health Care Insurance. Two years ago she read the book The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals and was inspired to become a farmer. She and her husband had been talking and talking about where their food comes from, what is the right way to eat, etc when one day her son said, “why don’t you just get your own farm?” Something clicked for her at that moment and that is exactly what she did.
Tara’s farm is located in Petaluma. It was a dairy farm until the mid 1950s (which means it had never been sprayed with pesticides or fertilizers so the soil is rich with nutrients and perfect for planting).
I met Tara because of Twitter! Another Twitter friend Peggy (who I met at our Mill Valley TweetUp back in June) always talks about all the yummy food she is eating from Tara Firma Farms and I got curious.
Peggy went with me on the farm visit. When we arrived at Tara’s farm we were immediately greeted by Tara. She invited us in her home, showed us around her home a bit and then began the farm tour. We started with the baby chickens.
Tara explained to me that her chickens come in the mail in a box. Before last week I might have been surprised to hear that her chickens came in a box but I had recently read about that in the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (P.S.) where Barbara Kingsolver describes her trip to the post office to pick up baby chicks. For anyone that is shocked by the thought of baby chicks being delivered in a box this excerpt may help explains things better.
“Poultry hatchlings don’t need to eat or drink for the first 48 hours of life, as they are born with a margin of safety called the yolk sac – the yolk of the egg absorbed into the chicks belly just before hatching. This adaptation comes in handy for birds like chickens and turkeys that have to get up and walk right way, following mom around to look from something edible… Some animal-rights groups have tried to make an issue of it, but mail-order chicks from reputable hatcheries have virtually a 100% survival rate.”
Tara’s farm is not certified organic yet because she is not sure she wants to do that. Each group of animals and all of the produce need individual sets of paperwork, filled out weekly. Given that the farm is open to the public she feels that her customers can come to see for themselves and will trust that the plants are animals are grown/raised organically, sustainably and humanely.
Tara then brought me to the garden part of the farm. She explained to me that they are practicing bio intensive farming. This sounds like a very complicated practice but in the end saves a TON of water, creates 4 times more produce in the same space and they are able to farm without using any pesticides/fertilizers. She has been learning about bio intensive farming from an expert named Elijah who came from Kenya to work on her farm.
Another cool thing she learned from Elijah was how to get beetles off of her Kale plants without using any pesticides. Her Kale plants had suddenly gotten a bunch of beetles that were happily feasting on her Kale. Elijah paid close attention and noticed that the beetles were not touching the spinach plants right next to the Kale so he cut a bunch of Spinach, liquefied it and put it in a spray bottle and sprayed all the Kale plants with Spinach. Guess what? The beetles went away! How cool is that?!
After the garden tour we moved on to the full grown chickens. She introduced me to the chickens that were going to be used for food and then to the laying chickens. I also got to see her turkeys and one black duck. Notice the happy hens laying eggs coming in and out of their hen house.
I asked Tara how on earth did she figure out how to be a farmer so fast? Did she have past experience? Was she raised on a farm? No she was not raised on a farm. She had about 6 months past experience on a farm when she was in college but it was nothing like this. She learned by reading Joel Salitan’s books!
The night I came home from the farm I invited Amy (my neighbor, the professional cook) to come over and cook the pork I bought. We ended up having a small dinner party, two other friends joined us when they heard we had farm fresh pork and Amy was cooking. I asked everyone to look at my photos from the farm visit before eating. I think it is a good thing to know where your food comes from.
We had great dinner conversations about sustainable eating and my visit to the farm. I personally only ate a few nibbles of the pork off the leftover bone because I wanted to try it but to be honest I have a really hard time eating pork. Not sure if it is because I used to babysit my friend’s pot belly pig or what but eating pork is not easy for me. There is a voice inside of me that I can’t ignore that keeps telling me to be a vegetarian and especially don’t eat pork. I am not a vegetarian (yet…. again… I used to be… long story) however I think I will be again or at least be a 90/10 vegetarian (90% vegetarian). Right now I’d say I’m 80/20. However, after my visit to the farm today and reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (P.S.) I’m learning that eating locally is what is most important.
Have you ever thought about eating food that is grown or raised within 100 miles of your home? I have and it is not easy to do. I’m thinking about giving myself that challenge.
Thank you to Tara for sharing all your knowledge with me.
Thank you to Peggy for introducing me to Tara and for going to the farm with me.
To see all my pictures from the farm visit, check out my album on Flickr.
Tara encourages visitors to come by the farm. Bring your children or grab a buddy and contact Tara to schedule a visit. I learned so much from her!
Tara Firma Farms
3796 I Street
Petaluma, CA 94952
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