Sustainable, organic farming in northern California

I will be spending the next 8 months at an 240 acre, off-grid, sustainable, organic farm called Oz on the northern California coast. Oz started out as ‘Village Oz,’ a hippy commune back in the 1960’s and has been CCOF certified since the 1990s. The current owners took over about 4 years ago and are working to expand the variety of local, organic food produced in Mendocino County. Oz is bordered by Redwood forests and the Garcia River, making it a truly magical place to live and farm.  I am one of four, seed to seed, seasonal apprentices. The farm is entirely solar and wind powered, with generator back-up for the cloudy winter days. Water power is next on the list. Oz provides room and board and instruction in organic farming and sustainable living in exchange for about 40 hours/week farm labor. We grow a variety of vegetables, heirloom apple and pear varieties, and cut flowers for sale to local restaurants and markets, a farmers market, and CSA (community-supported agriculture) boxes. We also host retreats, guests, and weddings in a variety of cabins and yurts, many of which date back to the hippy days. So far this season, we are preparing the fields for the spring planting, repairing and recovering anything damaged in the four floods and fierce winter storms, starting seeds in the greenhouse, pruning the orchards, and preparing cabins for the big summer season (we have 14 weddings this year!). In the next couple of weeks we will be planting several of the fields as they become ready and the weather continues to warm.

I am learning all about different herbal remedies, organic methods, the impact of seasons and moon cycles, and sustainable power. The farmer’s market we go to in Gualala will start back up in May and will be every Saturday, along with local deliveries going out every Tuesday. The local farmer’s guild is also attempting to start up a farmers guild in Point Arena (our closest town) that would be on Friday’s in the summer.

For my project I will be looking into how other smaller-scale farms have improved their food justice and local consumption. It is difficult for an organic farm to improve local food justice while still remaining economically solvent. So I will be looking to see what, if any, techniques Oz could use or improve upon to improve the local food justice.

Here is a picture of me and some of the other apprentices and staff weeding out an invasive blackberry vine in preparation for the next planting. 6 of the 9 workers on this farm are female; lady farming power!


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