by Sarah Hadler
My two year old son, Sylvester, and I follow a lovely, hand-painted sign off Ferguson Road that points the way to New Family Farm. A winding road leads us down into the valley and we are met by Adam Davidoff’s warm smile as he sits planting seeds in the frame of a “greenhouse”. Adam takes us on a tour of the “heart of the farm” and Sylvester gets happier and dirtier as we go. We walk by rows of cabbage and kale, carrots, lettuce, beets, celery roots and parsley, cilantro and dry-farmed tomatoes. Zara, the friendly farm dog who helps to keep the gopher population under control, follows us joyfully and we greet two of the draft horses, Pearl and Gracie. Later on in the tour, to Sylvester’s delight, we meet eight 2-week old piglets and their mama.
New Family Farm has been selling their bountiful veggies, herbs and fruits, at the Occidental Bohemian Farmers Market since 2010; at their first farmer’s market, they sold carrots and beets that they grew in their parents’ backyards. They also sell at the Sebastopol Farmers’ Market on Sunday morning and at the Santa Rosa Wells Fargo Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings. Adam and his farming partner, Ryan Power, both raised in Sebastopol, came home from UC Santa Cruz with degrees in Environmental Studies, and later decided to give farming (or “homesteading” as Adam calls it) a go; they have been going strong for about 5 years. Adam estimates that they farm about 10 acres of crops (including a field off of Cooper Road in Sebastopol where they grow potatoes) and they also raise animals; they have 20 chickens that they use for themselves, pigs that they raise for meat and draft horses that they use for plowing and cultivating the fields.
“We farm on a human scale,” Adam says to me, as he picks a bunch of gorgeous, dark green kale, “and we do it all right here”. Seeds are propagated and grow up in the green house, they are then transferred to the fields that have been plowed by horses. There are five full time workers, including Adam and Ryan, during the height of the season. The farmland lies in the Atascadero Creek watershed and the water comes from a well. Horse manure, and duck manure from a local source, provide fertilization; alyssum and companion planting are used as a natural form of pest control. Interestingly enough, Adam says that they have had less crop diversity every year that they have been farming because they find what grows well in their particular environment and plant more of it and they stop growing what doesn’t work as well; still, they have a large variety of crops, from arugula to delicata squash and many things in between.
This is the busy season for a farm and Adam has a lot of work to do; he invites us to stay and wander for as long as we like and he heads back to his seed bench. We meet Tory, Ryan’s girlfriend, and two young girls that she is watching for the day; they are playing in the mud that is created by the drips of the irrigation sprinkler as it waters the rows of broccoli and cabbages. Sylvester eagerly joins in and the next half hour is spent making mud balls from this fertile, deep brown, silty soil—I can see why the vegetables and people here are so happy!