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Local Farm Tour and Local Products Fair Display Lifely Product Characteristics
Larry and I just had one of our best weekends ever! We spent two days exploring local organic farms and a street fair filled with local makers showing their wares.
Not only did we learn more about what is available from local producers, but I got more ideas about what characteristics could be included in the list of Lifely Product characteristics I am working on.
I also had the opportunity to speak with some of the local makers about their products and the ethic behind them.
I’m really seeing that there are actually droves of people who are leaving their industrial life for work that is more simple, local, creative, natural, connected to the earth and more. And many people who never went the corporate route in the first place (like me) who now have more outlets and more audience for their work.
I just can even begin to express how encouraged I am after this weekend at the interest I found in Lifely, from people who are already doing it in their own way.
After a long conversation, one maker gave me a hug and said, “You are not alone. There are lots of us.”
The farm tour is an annual event of the Sonoma County Farm Trails, which promotes farms, ranches, wineries, orchards, artisans and small, local businesses that sell local products. They publish a yearly directory, Many of these places are open alll the time or on weekends throughout the year, but once a year there is Weekend Along the Farm Trails where about 30 farms and artisan makers open their businesses to the public.
There were many farms we wanted to visit, but as it turns out we only ended up visiting five farms, even though we planned an itinerary of eight. There is driving time and you only have six hours each day, and once you get to a farm you want to spend time there. But we were very happy with our choices and are looking forward to both doing the weekend again next year and spending more time going through the directory and visiting what we can through the year.
Here’s where we went and what we found.
We started out on Saturday morning by going to The Barlow, a “outdoor market district" in downtown Sebastopol devoted to local products. Twelve acres of abandoned applesauce canneries are now shops that sell local foods, drinks, and crafts. Some makers work right on the premises.
Two of the Farm Tour stops were in The Barlow.
* Golden State Cider is "on a mission to grow apples through cider and revitalize California’s apple growing industry by only 100% fresh-pressed west coast apples.” When we visited they had ciders made from 12 different apples. We didn’t taste because they all contained alcohol and we don’t drink alcoholic beverages. We were hoping they would have 12 varieties of just plain cider. That would have been wonderful!
* Wm Cofield Cheese Makers makes “proper British style cheese” from local Sonoma County milk. Really delicious cheese here. They also carry other artisan cheeses made in Sonoma County.
Then there was a one-day street fair with even more local products, sponsored by Head West , as "New Marketplace for Makers, Merchants + Mavericks, bringing together community around New Goods + Found Vintage.” They have fairs at several venues around the San Francisco Bay area. I can’t wait for them to come back to Sebastopol. Their mission is "to create an environment that supports and embraces local creativity + the spirit of entrepreneurship. Through connecting people, we preserve arts + culture, realize our impact on the local economy + provide for the well-being of the people that keep these ideals alive.”Organizations like this need to be everywhere.
Among the Head West vendors, a few really stood out for me.
* Fabula Tea was amazing. Kenny and Yshel create one-of-a-kind tea experiences, blending small batch connoisseur-grade teas with stories, people and art. These teas were just beyond anything I have ever experienced. I tasted every single one and one in particular really got my attention—a blend of chrysanthemum, licorice root, and spearmint was sweet without sugar and uplifting without caffiene. I loved it so much I had to buy it. When I got it home and brewed it I found it contained whole chrysanthemum flowers!
* Bespoke Watch Projects offers vintage-style wind-up watches with customizable elements you can design yourself. So the watches look both timeless and new. If I wore a watch, I would order one here.
* Cultural Threads is a collaboration between an American designer and women in the Peruvian Andes. After visiting Peru over a period of years and seeing a decline in the traditional alpaca marketplace, she organized a co-operative where the women raise the alpacas, sheer their wool, spin the yarn and knit our products. The designer spend half her year in Peru working with the women and half her year in the USA selling the products. I saw a reversible two-color hat I loved and I think I’m going to buy it.
* Beam and Branch makes coiled baskets from 100% cotton rope, hand-dyed using natural and plant-based materials.
* Project Full brings "modern design, simplicity, ethical production and sustainable materials” to 100% organic meditation pillows. But the triangular design is so beautiful these pillows could be used for any purpose. I love the way these look.
Then we went to a little takeout place in The Barlow called Barrio, which serves "contemporary Mexican-style street food with a gourmet twist...handcrafted dishes made with organic seasonal ingredients sourced from long-standing relationships with the finest local farmers and ranchers” So good. One of my favorite places to eat here. And then we went a few doors down to Two Dog Night Creamery and shared one scoop of pumpkin pie ice cream made with locally sourced organic ingredients.
After lunch we drove west through the rural part of Sonoma County to the tiny town of Bodega. There we visited Bodega Pastures. Over the past two years since we’ve lived here I’ve gotten to know the shepherds Hazel because I see her almost every week at the Sebastopol Farmer’s Market. I’ve been wanting to visit her farm and especially this weekend we wanted to look at the quality of her “utility fleece” to see if we can use it as insulation in our tiny house. It passed our inspection so it looks like our tiny house will be wrapped with wool, which makes me very happy.
After a long day we stopped on the way home at Wild Flour Bread in Freestone. It’s just one of our very most favorite places. They make a unique organic sourdough bread and scones in a brick oven and have the most beautiful garden right next door with vegetables, fruits and flowers that are used in their baked goods.
As if that wasn’t enough…
The following day, Sunday, we started off at the Sebastopol Farmer’s Market,
Then we stopped for coffee at a place I had never been before called Sparrow Coffee. They don’t seem to have a website so I linked to their Yelp page. Reviews are mixed and reflect how I felt about it too. On the plus side, everything seems to be organic, from the coffee to the baked goods. Once you order, they grind the beans and put them in a pour-over, so it’s the freshest cup of coffee possible but…it didn’t taste very good. They also had cardboard covers for the cups which I liked except they dripped when I sipped the coffee. And the person working there that day just wasn’t very likable and didn’t have good communication skills. I really experienced the importance of all these other factors that must be present in addition to the organic coffee in order to have a good customer experience. I wasn’t inspired to return.
Then we went to Bohemian Creamery, which for me was the highlight of the entire weekend. We paid to take the tour+tasting and it was worth every penny and more. We learned so much about cheese from our cheesemaker tour guide. And the cheeses were fantastic! Their website starts "Bohemian Creamery lies just a mile outside downtown Sebastopol California on a hilltop overlooking the Laguna de Santa Rosa, the Mayacama mountains and our herd of Alpine dairy goats. It is here that the spring clover enriches our goats’ milk, the wild blue rye molds powder our natural rind cheeses and the salty marine layer infuses our aging rooms. It is here where the inspiration for all our unique goat, sheep and cow cheeses is born.” And then she takes this milk and makes her own unique cheeses. And goat milk yogurt (best ever). And it’s so close to where I live we can almost ride the tandem bike there (I think we’re going to try).
We concluded our Farm Tour with a stop at Apple-A-Day where we picked apples. If you’ve never picked apples right from the tree they are hard and juicy, not soft like they are in the grocery store. Larry loves loves loves apples so he was in heaven and we came home with several pounds.
So that was our weekend. We’re looking forward to visiting more farms and getting to know more farmers and makers. I’ve made a folder so I can keep track of information on all the places we want to go to and buy direct.
This is so different from shopping at the natural food store or even the farmer’s market. But we are so fortunate to have so many producers in such close proximity that we can buy much of the food we eat directly from the source.