Tiny clementines, some no bigger than a marble.

On Sunday afternoon, as shadows grew long and the wind had me reaching for a warm scarf, the parking lot of Green String Farms was bustling with cars, customers coming and going, arms full of spring’s early harvest.

The farm store is surrounded by “U-Dig” flower starts, vegetable seedlings, herbs, small trees–dwarf palms, pine, buckeye and olive–and a small mountain of crushed rock, a perfect garden supplement.

Under a colorful chalk sign announcing free farm tours at noon on Saturday is a bin of rosy prickly pears, $1 each, flanked by bins of green garlic and slender spring onions. Completing the table are two bins of tiny clementines, some as small as marbles, others barely the size of ping pong balls, perfect nibbled whole and delicious in jams and marmalades. A nearby barrel is topped with bunches of fresh herbs.

Late Sunday afternoon, only a few prickly pears--also known as tunas--remained.

Another table is devoted nearly entirely to beets of every shape, size and color. There are tiny thumb-sized nuggets and huge earthy balls, some with their greens, some without and some so big I found myself thinking of Tom Robbins’s novel “Jitterbug Perfume.” Beets are all $2 a pound and there are two recipes posted on chalkboards, one for beet-pickled eggs and another for golden beet quiche, which also calls for turnips and chard, both of which are within easy reach, as are delicious farm eggs.

Outside, you’ll also find lemons ($2 a pound), fava greens, curly cress, mustard flowers, rhubarb, carrots, spinach, cilantro, a few tiny Delicata and Blue Hubbarb squashes, red leaf lettuce, mustard greens, kales, cabbage, bok choy, fennel and a community compost barrel, where you can recycle all your kitchen scraps, wood ash and yard waste (chemical-free, please).

Earlier in the day there had been asparagus, long gone by the time I arrived, and inside next to the cash register were the season’s first artichokes, as small as eggs.

Inside, you’ll also find an ever changing array of canned fruits and vegetables, many of them that can be samples on the spot–I love the clementine jam– along with outstanding grass-fed beef, Vella cheeses and butter, local olive oil by the ounce, 20-year-old vinegar, potatoes, black walnuts, almonds, freshly milled flour and wheat you can mill on the spot.

And, almost best of all, something from the growing collection of vintage vinyl is always spinning on the turntable.

The 140-acre Green String Farm, which has about 60 acres under cultivation, rests in the southern shadow of Sonoma Mountain. It is a project of Fred Cline of Cline Cellars and Jacuzzi Family Vineyards and Bob Cannard Jr.  , an original founder of the Santa Rosa farmers market and long-time grower for Alice Water’s Chez Panisse. The farm is not certified organic but the duo employ sustainable practices that far exceed what is necessary for official organic certification.

Cline and Cannard also operate Green String Institute, founded in 2000, which offers three-month internships. The program includes hands-on work on the farm, classes, housing, food and a stipend.

Farmers can become members of the institute, provided they meet Green String Farm’s certification requirements.

For information about Green String Institute’s programs, visit greenstringinstitute.org. For information about the farm, visit greenstringfarm.com.

Green String Farm, founded in 2003 and open to the public in 2006, is located at 3571 Old Adobe Rd., at the the corner of Frates Rd. in northeast Petaluma. It is now open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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