Looking for local food in Mendocino County? Here you can find out which farms grow what foods, and how to buy them.
You can also learn about local food efforts like community gardens, food banks, and farmers markets; see upcoming events on our calendar; and check out helpful gardening guides for growing your own food.
From farmers markets to festivals to work parties and more, keep an eye on our event calendar to find a local food event near you.
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C'mon Home to EatThis article, featuring Anderson Valley Community Farm, is the first in a series coordinated by Anderson Valley Foodshed. There will be farm, restaurant, grocery store, farm stand, caterer, farmers' market, ranch, and home gardening profiles/interviews to demonstrate the value of local food not only for your personal health, but for the local economy, community health, and to reduce our use of fossil fuel resources. Petit Teton will be next.
Anderson Valley Community Farm
by Tim Ward
It has been two years since I moved to Boonville to begin a farming project on Burt Cohen’s original 50-acre Boont Berry Farm property at the edge of town. My project is now called Anderson Valley Community Farm (after a year as Boont Berry Community Farm and frequently being confused for the landlord’s Boont Berry Farm store downtown) and is proudly producing high quality vegetables, eggs, and meat for local sale and also growing much of the feed for our animals. As a 33-year old from rural West Sonoma County, I took on a big clean-up and development job on the farm in order to get it back on track. Despite the fairly overwhelming situation on the ground and a savings of only a few thousand dollars to begin with, I saw the potential fertility of the land and was overtaken by a strong desire to find a home in a small town community that would support an honest attempt to improve local food security and build community. Combine that with the personal lifestyle dream of an agrarian worker and it should be clear that I invented a dream job for myself.
My significant past experience in community organizations, non-profits, and expedition teams, and with very little in a traditional owner/operator business situation, ensured that the AVCF farming project would be un-traditional in its business model. I always knew the farm would need lots of volunteer help in the first years and hoped to find long-term partners to create a legitimate cooperative farm business. It turned out to be easy to get part-time live/work volunteers, and hard to find long-term interested partners because there are more expenses than profits to share, the workload is intense, and the only security is trust in my intention to cooperate.
One long-term farming partner did arrive. Renee and I were dating, and I wisely married her at the AV Grange this past February. Renee (formerly Wilson) was raised in Ukiah and had been an employee of the Natural Foods Co-op for 9 years until she also fulfilled a personal dream when she moved to our farm to be a full-time farmer. Her main passion is medicinal herbal plants and products; she is also skilled with vegetables, and increasingly with livestock.
My college focus on agriculture, environmental studies, and economics provided an acute awareness that most farms in America have failed and that there are countless economic and social pressures that we would need to work against. While it sometimes seems that there are lots of local farms, nationally 54% of local farms are “retirement” or “lifestyle” farms. This means they can afford to lose money on their farming. This is a luxury that we would not have, so the business model would need to be very carefully structured. In addition I needed some borrowed money to begin the project and since I was not “lendable” by conventional banking standards, I managed to assemble a small group of interested community members to provide a three-year loan so I could begin.
Anderson Valley Community Farm (AVCF) has been clearly focused from the outset on an alternative, community-oriented business model commonly referred to as CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture). AVCF sells memberships in its local food club and then conducts a members-only farm stand where members collect their pre-paid produce. Members are viewed as investors and AVCF distributes 25% of profits directly back to members. 50% of profits are allocated for re-investment in future development and 25% for bonuses for the volunteer full-time, full-season farm crew. Profit is still a humor filled topic, but we believe the intention in the structure is important.
CSA members can select from vegetable produce as well as eggs, meat, and milk. Production is prioritized for members to honor their up-front investment. Members get the earliest and the best produce, then we go to market to sell the surplus. We also make sure that members receive the lowest possible price to cover production expense; we then sell the surplus at market rates. Elimination of middlemen, like wholesalers or grocers, and marketing/delivery costs, drops the production cost and allows us to offer the lowest possible price to the farm members. When we are able to sell the surplus at market, the profits come back to the members.
There are three main benefits for AVCF’s survival from being CSA-focused and they all have to do with the farm’s long-term survival. First the pre-payment by members provides needed revenue in the winter, which is the “investment phase” of the farm season (seed, compost, etc.). Historically most farms have borrowed to make it through this time and most farms have, likewise, collapsed because of debt burden. Secondly the farm benefits from shared risk with the members. Natural issues like drought and crop failure have bankrupted many farmers in American history. We sacrifice our owner profit potential for the support of a community and they understand they need to take a piece of the loss on the hard years. Third the CSA allows us to make contractual agreements making the members co-owners of livestock in order to distribute strictly regulated food products like meat animals to members without needing to drive to the very few and far apart USDA facilities in Northern California. We are instead able to facilitate our members to support local custom slaughtering and small butcher shops. In this way we can offer meat for a lower price and for more profit and support other local business.
Renee and I share a few key beliefs about the situation we find ourselves trying to farm in. First we believe that our current national, state, and local economic situation is very unstable and that this recession might get much worse. Second we believe that rural areas like Mendocino County are increasingly food insecure. The trend towards increasing industrialization and consolidation of the food system means that our local area might have trouble accessing the food that it depends on because it is not locally produced. As oil costs will rise, transition to localized food production, sustainable agriculture, and localized economics make sense whether or not there is an environmental, economic, or political disaster. If there is a natural or economic disaster, it might be very important that our community started ahead of the curve.
We also share some key inspirations that help us find the will to grind through the sometimes tough 12-hour workdays. Our inspiration is the hope of strengthening local community relationships by using the farm and the food as a gathering place and energy. We are also inspired by the research of Weston Price to produce healthy, nutrient dense food through natural, rock mineral amended, biodynamically prepared soils for the veggies, and grass-fed and finished meat, dairy and eggs. We are major health-through-nutrition believers and we think in this increasingly polluted world quality of food is more important than ever. We love being able to provide education to the interested volunteers who come through. We’re know that we’re going to need a lot more farmers to get back to any kind of real volume in local food production and we are happy to be involved in training new farmers.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 21 May 2013 19:32.
CSA Open House a Great Success
Hopland, CA - The first ever collaborative CSA Open House at Earth Day 2013 was a hit for farmers and attendees alike! CSA farmers and ranchers discussed their farms and CSA offerings to hundreds of attendees who came out to the Real Goods Solar Living Center to celebrate sustainable living. Local wineries and olive oil producers shared the big tent with the CSA Open House, creating a festive microcosm of Mendocino's delicious gastronomy.
Attendees to the event - local and out of town - were amazed with the community-based food farming and learned about the basic principles behind Community-Supported Agriculture. Tarney Sheldon from NCO's Nutrition Education Program made available recipes and meal planning ideas for potential CSA shareholders. Julia Conway of Assaggiare Mendocino demonstrated how easy it is to incorporate CSA vegetables, meats, and grain into family meals, and everyone got to taste how delicious local CSA farm foods really are.
It's not too late to joing a Vegetable CSA this year, not to mention all the meat CSA programs and grain CSA. Find a CSA farm or ranch to join in the CSA Directory.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 April 2013 08:15.
Approved Source Public Stakeholder Meetings
The Mendocino County Agricultural Commissioner, the Director of Environmental
Health, and the Food Policy Council invite local farmers, retail food buyers, and
local food advocates to the first of a series of public meetings to give input into the
design and development of an “Approved Source” program for Mendocino County.
Last Updated on Friday, 01 March 2013 08:29.
West Company Farm Business Development Services
In continuing efforts to build better businesses, West Company is excited to work with Mendocino County food producers through a new project funded by the USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP), Strengthening CSAs by Building Capacity and Expanding Markets Project.
Last Updated on Thursday, 21 February 2013 11:54.
Lovers Lane Farm
- Friday, 13 April 2012
Life on Lovers Lane Farm is hard but good work. In between the farmers markets & beekeeping, chicken & goat tending, mushroom foraging & compost tilling, veggie raising and hive wrangling, there are moments when the evening comes around and the Feigin family can enjoy good conversations beside their little pond. From there they can observe the ranch's wildlife as it moves through the seasons, sniffing and poking along the periphery. The wildlife can observe them too, noting perhaps from their point of view how nicely the Feigin's hard but good work coincides with that of mother nature.
Last Updated on Monday, 21 May 2012 08:26.
Chew On This
Deciding what to eat, indeed deciding what qualifies as food, is not easy ... When Froot Loops can earn a Smart Choices check mark, a new industrywide label that indicates a product’s supposed healthfulness, we know we can’t rely on the marketers, with their dubious health claims, or for that matter on the academic nutritionists who collaborate on such labeling schemes.
Rules to Eat By by Michael Pollan
The New York Times Magazine
October 11, 2009