Paul and Mary are visiting. Before they came, they told Peter Paul had reconnected with one of his college track team buddies who happened to own an organic farm in Marin, and that they planned to take a day to visit him. I turned it into a field trip for Charybdis and Scylla. Farms are educational! Besides, I still have fond memories of our visit to Green Gulch Farms a few years earlier.
Their friend’s farm, Star Route Farms, was located beyond Green Gulch Farms, just past Stinson Beach, in the reportedly reclusive little town of Bolinas. His farm was right next to a charming little school, which we got to see because Neil had had a rough journey over Mt. Tam and needed to use the bathroom. I was reminded how rural (deliberately or not) Marin can be: between this school in Bolinas and its sister campus in Stinson Beach, the enrollment was all of 102.
As it turns out Star Route Farms was not just your ordinary organic farm. Warren Weber, former Cornell track star, started local organic farming before organic farming became trendy. Star Route Farms is the oldest organic farm in California, and now it’s where many of those upscale restaurants promoting fresh California cuisine buy their produce from.
Warren (or Dr. Weber, if you’re not related to someone he went to school with) gave us a tour of the farm, which included a glimpse of a wild deer along a small creek.)
In between sharing anecdotes about what collegiate sports used to be like back in the day with Paul, he told us about the farm. I was expected to see more bugs, but apparently if you grow the crops that are right for a climate and don’t stress them (say, by planing them too close to one another), they grow quickly enough that pests aren’t a problem: and if they are, you can introduce a bacteria (not chemicals) that’ll take care of things.
Most of his clientele is still upscale Bay Area restaurants, and they usually work so closely with him, so if a chef wants to add a new kind of green to his menu, he calls up Warren to grow it for him. As for weeds, he takes a similar approach as my neighbor Demeter: plow ’em under, let ’em grow if they aren’t impacting the other plants, and best of all, eat ’em. I wasn’t suprised to see him growing dandelion greens, but he also had wild nettles, which local chefs also buyin now to put in soups and add to polenta. I have holistic recipes that call for nettles, but they don’t grow wild in my garden! They do grow in Bolinas, and now that chefs are asking for nettles, he just has to open up a field to let them grow. Now if he’d gone on an all-out war against weeds, he might not have had any nettles to grow today.
In a way, his method of working the land wasn’t all that different from my homesteader friend Dave’s conservationist philosophy. Know the land, and let the land and nature do what it wants to make it work for you. That way, there’s less work, and less impact on the environment altogether.
After we saw some of the farm, we walked back to Warren’s house for lunch, where Neil cut some lemons, thus getting some practice at what working at an organic farm might be like.
Then we had a fabulous fresh lunch, and met Warren’s wife Amy, who showed Kelly where the toys were. We had to return home before Bay Area traffic got to bad, but Kelly (seeing Stinson Beach twice from up above on the road to and from Bolinas) made me promise to take her back.