Here we embark on the afternoon portion of our tour, as described by the announcement in CUESA Newsletter.
Enjoy the bus ride through the scenic and fertile Capay Valley, home to numerous small family farms. A representative from Capay Valley Grown will narrate along the way and will tell us about how the farms in this valley work together to market their crops.Our final destination will be Orangewood Farm in Rumsey. Mother-and-daughter team Jackie and Bonny Scott run this nursery that utilizes a greenhouse to grow organic plant starts for home gardeners, including 67 varieties of tomatoes. The Scotts also have citrus and pecan trees, and are working to restore the hills on their property by planting native grasses. Each participant will receive a nursery plant to take home.
Upon leaving the Bruins’ farm, we turned north onto Route 16 and picked up Paul Muller of Full Belly Farm to narrate our trip through the Capay Valley. (Pronounced Kay-Pay) This small, very fertile valley, fed by Cache Creek, does not lend itself to huge industrial agriculture that you’ll find in the Central Valley, and so has attracted small farms, ranging from 20 to 150 acres. In addition to his work at Full Belly, Paul Muller is one of the leaders of a movement to create a Capay Valley Grown brand.
Our destination is Orangewood Farm, where Jackie Scott cultivates oranges and grapefruits and her daughter Bonny has a plant nursery growing over 100 kinds of plant starts. They harvest pecans that grow wild on their property, as well.
CUESA brought along a swell sound system. Bonny is speaking into a wireless microphone. The gentleman in the foreground is holding the speaker. It has a generous range so as we filed through the greenhouses, folks in the back could hear the narration. Excellent.
At “going on 22,” Bonny has nurtured a successful business, with the help of her mother and younger sister. In the winter months, she is going back to school in pursuit of her Horticulture degree.
The process starts here. Perlite (for aeration), Vermiculite (for water retention) and compost are mixed into the soil and placed in the flats.
The flats are seeded and taken to a greenhouse for incubation.
Inside, the flats are placed on twin bed size waterbeds, with heating pads underneath. Clever. This is one of many areas where small farmers invent low tech, environmentally sensitive solutions to suit their needs.
Bonny built these hoop houses from a kit to grow her seedlings. The larger one on the left is for vegetables and flowers, the smaller is for herbs.
This is quite a contrast to the huge greenhouses on the Bruins’ farm chock full of tomato plants. I was startled at how clean and organized this place was.
Bonny pointed out several features of the hoop house. Curtains on the sides are raised and lowered to control ventilation. A dark mesh is pulled over the top to provide shade.
Some of the products that are taken to market and sold to gardeners in the Bay Area.
Garlic water or natural antibacterial soapy water are sprayed on the plants to resist mites and bugs.
Everybody needs a t’do list.
Finally, we walked over to an orange grove, where the undergrowth is kept in check by their pet goat and horse.
I grew up in the city (Columbus, Ohio) and have always lived in the city (Boston, San Francisco) and practiced a city profession (architecture). My grandfather had a small farm in Logan, Ohio, where I spent summers as a kid, but these CUESA farm tours are mind and eye popping for me. It is so refreshing to learn how small farmers invent better ways to sustainably grow and market their products, from Bart Bruins’ pollinating stick and sticky yellow tape to Bonny Scott’s waterbeds and garlic spray. Their passion and hard work are setting an example for consumers, as well as future farmers, on how we can better treat our resources. Thank you, CUESA, for giving us a glimpse of this world.