Last month, our teachers-in-residence and farming staff took part in a West Marin Farms Development Day to learn about a variety of organic and sustainable farming practices, get insights on different business models, and be inspired by successful, local organic farmers.
The first stop of the day was at Paradise Valley Produce. Husband and wife team, Dennis and Sandy Dierks, have been farming organically on their 15 acre Bolinas property since 1972. Dennis shared his knowledge about soil health and fertility, covering nutrient cycles on the farm, soil amendments, soil-feeding techniques, as well as best practices for cultivation, tilling, and cover cropping. Dennis also talked about how to make various brews that contribute to a well-balanced compost tea, such as mycorrhizal and lactose (which the group found very interesting!).
Then it was off for a tour at BN Ranch owned by Bill Niman, a long-time Bolinas rancher located up on the Mesa. Bill has run a high-end beef operation since the 1970’s, and is the original founder and past owner of Niman Ranch. The team learned about BN Ranch's sustainably and humanely raised meats, where animal welfare is put first.
After lunch they headed to Star Route Farms - the oldest continuously certified organic grower in California (certified since 1974). Star Route Farms were pioneers in the then fledgling organic industry, adopting production and post-harvest technologies such as precision planters and hydrocooling equipment in order to insure top quality produce for the consumer. The founder/owner, Warren Weber, has long been active in the organic industry as a past president of California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF), co-founder of the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF), president of Marin Organic (MarinOrganic.org) and past vice-president of Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT). Today, the 40 acre property in Bolinas is managed by operations manager, Annabelle Lenderink (who also runs their farmers markets, restaurant and store sales). The team learned some valuable information about the best way to build soils, conserve water, maintain habitat, and nurture productive farmland.
The last stop of their packed education day was Gospel Flat Farm – a beautiful and inspiring vegetable, fruit, meat and dairy farm by the lagoon in Bolinas run by Mickey Murch and his family. This four generation farm (originally ran by Mickey's father and mother, Don Murch and Sarah Hake, since 1982), is a wonderful melting pot of food, education, culture and art, and is a community hub in Bolinas. The team toured the farm and learned about Mickey’s non-staffed Farm Stand that just relies on customers using an honor system for purchases (a business model that works very well for them!). Read Mickey's blog.
All in all it was a very important and memorable day for our staff and teachers-in-residence. We are incredibly grateful to all of the farmers and farms involved for making room in their busy schedules to share their wealth of knowledge with our team.