How can you tell you’re shopping at Beet Generation Farm’s market stall? First, there’s the beautifully arranged produce, each item so pretty and pristine in its own basket. Then there’s the produce itself, curly-cue shaped cucumbers, tiny Padron chiles, salad greens so fresh they look like they grew right in the bag. Then there’s the beautiful sign and the equally beautiful smiling face of the farmer, Libby Batzel.
Beet Generation’s current harvest includes Romanesco zucchini and several other summer squashes, six varieties of cucumbers, salad mix, several varieties of head lettuce including both red and green Romaine, Romano beans, Fortex pole beans, Padron and Shishito chiles and eggs from very happy hens. Soon there will be melons, which are nearly ripe, and then sweet corn and dried shell beans. Come fall, expect chipotle powder, paprikas and other ground dried chiles.
Batzel founded her farm, currently an acre in Sebastopol, in 2010 in downtown Santa Rosa. She sold her first crops through a small CSA and, in 2011, partnered with Jill Adams of Crescent Moon Farm. Jill was in her final season in Sonoma County and Libby was starting her second season.
“I learned so much working with Jill,” Libby says now, “and have never laughed so hard in my life. We had so much fun farming together.”
Today, Beet Generation fills the gap left when Adams closed Crescent Moon Farm and moved to Maine, where she managed a farm for a time and recently became a certified white water rafting guide. Although Libby has continued producing the Padrons and Shishitos that Jill introduced in Sonoma County, she cannot grow the extraordinary pink okra that Jill also made famous here as there is not enough heat at her current location.
Libby’s farming experience extends back beyond 2010. A Santa Rosa native and Piner High School graduate, she attended Santa Rosa Junior College for two years before transferring to Montreat College in North Carolina, where she received a Bachelor of Science degree in Outdoor Education and Environmental Science. After college, she took a summer job at Red Wagon Organic Farm in Boulder, Colorado. The rest, as they say, is history: She was inspired.
After a season as field manager at Canvas Ranch in Two Rock, Libby was ready to launch her own farm.
“Farming is very intimate,” she explains, “and if you have a passion for it, you should do it your way.”
She was able to start her farm without capital by working at Chili’s Grill & Bar in Rohnert Park, where she receives full benefits. In the winter months, she holds down several shifts a week and then drops to a single day of bartending during her high season. Until this year, Libby’s partner, Ali Levesque , worked on the farm with her but now serves as a paramedic in San Francisco.
This year, there’s been no Beet Generation CSA. Instead, Libby volunteered on the relocation committee of the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market.
“We all spent many, many hours searching for the right location,” she says, emphasizing that it was important to ensure that farmers would not lose money and customers would not lose their market. This year, she says, she wanted to focus exclusively on the farmers market but hopes to restart her CSA in 2013. So far, it’s been a good season; every week, she sells all that she harvests.
Beet Generation Farm, founded in 2010 and operated by Libby Batzel, attends the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market, located at the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts (50 Mark West Springs Rd.), on Wednesdays and Saturdays.