Call it Bloomfield 2.0, Bloomfield Reborn or the Return of Bloomfield: Bloomfield Farms is back. For fifteen years, the farm–eighty acres hidden in plain view near the intersection of Roblar and Valley Ford Roads in Bloomfield–thrived. Under the direction of Mike Collins, one of the world’s leading permaculture authorities, the farm provided such restaurants as Berkeley’s Chez Panisse and natural foods businesses like Amy’s Kitchen with high quality certified organic produce. Yet with no farm stand and no presence at local farmers markets, the farm had a low profile in Sonoma County.
Sometime in the mid 2000s, Collins closed the farm to pursue other agricultural endeavors but now his hiatus is over. Three years ago, Bloomfield Farms 2.0 stepped onto the local stage and quickly became a favorite vendor at farmers markets in Occidental and Petaluma, its stall identified by a whimsical sign painted on an antique headboard. When the Bodega Bay farmers market opened for its second season a few weeks ago, Bloomfield Farms was the sole produce purveyor, a role they fulfilled easily because they grow such a wide range of crops.
When the farm launched U-Pick Sundays in late July, it was an instant success. This Sunday, more than 100 people–some of them groups, such as Marin Mommies –showed up to harvest a box of produce and to linger amidst the farm’s rural beauty. Guests are encouraged to bring a picnic and make a day of their visit.
Bloomfield Farms currently has forty-five acres under production at a new location a few miles west of the original Bloomfield Farm. The farm is within the Estero Americano watershed, an area with a long agricultural history. This is dairy and pasture county and a place that has long produced excellent dry farmed potatoes, a tradition Bloomfield Farms is continuing.
The farm is currently harvesting amaranth, quinoa greens, cilantro, parsley, artichokes, haricots verts , broccoli, cabbage, celery, three varieties of chard, collard greens, kales, ten varieties of potatoes and Bloomsdale spinach, a signature crop. There are 27 two-hundred-foot rows of heirloom tomatoes and two varieties of chiles, Padron and Oaxacan. The farm also has 50 happy hens–a number that will grow–producing eggs that are sold at farmers markets.
A farm of this size–it doubled the number of acres under cultivation this year–can’t rely on farmers market sales alone and understanding how to market the farm is an essential skill, one that many farmers overlook, Nick Papadopoulos, general manager, says. He emphasizes the importance of building an efficient team–currently, there are 13 employees–of being highly organized and of creating partners in the community. Bloomfield Farms works with FeedSonoma, a farmers exchange; Planet Organics, a home delivery service, and Whole Foods stores throughout Sonoma County.
Their CSA program currently has two drop-off locations, one in Larkspur and one at the University of California in San Francisco. They are also exploring possibilities with large organizations that offer health and wellness programs to employees. There is no local CSA yet but if they receive enough requests they will offer one with the farm itself as the pick-up point. For now, U-Pick Sundays fills that role.
Bloomfield Farms, founded more than 20 years ago and at its current location for three years, is owned and operated by Mike and Karen Collins. Nick Papadopoulos, Mike’s step-son, is general manager. The farm attends several Bay Area farmers markets, including the Petaluma farmers market on Wednesday evenings, the Occidental Bohemian farmers market on Friday afternoons and the Bodega Bay farmers market. The farm is open to the public on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. For directions and additional information, visit bloomfieldfarmsorganics.com.