For eight years, Jeff Russell has farmed in east Santa Rosa, on Rincon Valley land purchased decades ago by his great aunt. Today, fruit trees–including French prune plums–planted more than a hundred years ago and likely purchased directly from Luther Burbank are still productive.
Russell chose Redwood Empire Farm as a name that embraced this region’s history.
In 2007 Ariel Dillon, who grew up on a farm west of Petaluma, joined Russell in his farming endeavor. Dillon and Russell married on New Year’s Eve, 2010.
The current harvest includes Armenian cucumbers, summer squashes, Romanesco zucchini and a huge variety of tomatoes, including cherry tomatoes, heirlooms and beefsteaks. They also have Padron and Jimmy Nardello chiles and expect to begin harvesting yellow, orange and red bell peppers any day.
Their Bosc pears are about ready to pick and, in a few weeks, they’ll have Crane melons.
Sadly, there will be no watermelons this year. Last year, Redwood Empire Farm had the most delicious yellow watermelons around but this year, right around the time their daughter was expected, there was a tragedy in the green house. Some sort of virus attacked the young melon plants and, with Ariel about to give birth, there was no time to start another batch and get them in the ground in time.
Marley was born on May 23.
Although the farm does not go through the bureaucratic process now required to use the term “organic,” they farm the land as one would hope. They use no chemicals of any kind and no petroleum products. They practice both water conservation and crop rotation, plant cover crops to replenish the soil and use both non-GMO organic seeds and organic compost from local sources.
The five acres are tended by the Russells themselves, who also tend their stall at the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market on Saturdays, when there’s a good chance you’ll also see Marley.
In addition to the Saturday market, Redwood Empire Farm operates a farm stand three days a week. Customers who walk or bike to the farm stand receive a 10 percent discount and, on Wednesdays, seniors enjoy a 10 percent discount. They also accept WIC. Restaurant chefs who shop at the farm stand receive a 20 percent discount and advance orders are encouraged.
There’s no Redwood Empire Farm CSA this year, as they took a year off to focus on Marley. The CSA will return in 2013.
Redwood Empire Farm, founded in 2007 and operated by Jeff and Ariel Russell, attends the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market, located the southeast parking lot of the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts at 50 Mark West Springs Rd., Santa Rosa, on Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The farm stand, located in the farm’s parking lot at 55 Middle Rincon Rd., Santa Rosa, is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3 to 6 p.m. and on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, call 953-6150, email email@example.com or visit redwoodempirefarm.com.