When you bite into a carrot grown by Paul Wirtz , it is almost impossible not to smile. His carrots have snap– a pristine clarity on the palate–along with an earthy sweetness that is not as easy to find as it should be. These are carrots I can easily munch for breakfast.
That pristine quality threads through much of Wirtz’s harvest. His foods are bright, with true flavor and perfect texture. He is a fine fine farmer, with a bit of magic in his blood.
Since 1987, Paul’s Produce has been a fixture in Sonoma Valley. Currently, he sells to local restaurants and attends the Sonoma Valley Farmers Market on Friday mornings year round. He also sells at the Valley of the Moon Certified Farmers Market on Tuesday evenings. From 2001 to 2010, he managed the growing of produce for Oak Hill Farm, growing not just on that property but also on the land he has farmed for twenty years.
Wirtz farms 10 acres on Arnold Dr. in Sonoma; he’s just added four acres to his lease, though it is not yet in production. He’s also set up a farm stand, currently open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. It’s been enormously popular, he says, and he plans to explore the possibility of building a permanent structure; for now, he simply recreates his farm market booth. The stand is not yet year round–it will conclude sometime in late fall–but that could change next year.
The farm’s fall harvest includes tomatoes, peppers, kale, chard, collard greens, head lettuce, beans, fennel, celery, onions, eight varieties of winter squash and several types of melons, including Ananas , a muskmelon, and Piel de Sapo , which is similar to Casaba. There’s salad mix now, too, and will be through spring. The farm produces carrots and beets year round and root crops like parsnips and celery root are just coming on.
Surprisingly, there are also artichokes, an early fall crop that Wirtz hopes won’t exhaust the plants before spring. Earlier this year, Paul’s Produce had outstanding artichokes, some of the best grown in Sonoma County.
The farm is also widely praised for its delicious shallots, which should be available starting around Thanksgiving.
In November, the farm will start its CSA season, which will continue through April. Instead of offering a CSA at the height of harvest, as so many programs do, Paul’s Produce CSA focuses on the slower season, which works perfectly for both customers and staff. A weekly box is $25, with a discount if you pay for the entire season in advance. As of press time, Candi Edmondson, Wirtz’s wife, was revising information Web site about the subscription program and will be signing up members throughout October. Members pick up their boxes at the farm on Wednesdays.
Edmondson, with her generous smile and halo of beautiful silvery hair, is also the face of Paul’s Produce at farmers markets.
Although Paul’s Produce is not certified organic, Wirtz’s practices will qualify the farm for certification should he ever decide to go that route. His farming practices include crop rotation, cover cropping when necessary and heavy organic input, especially compost and compost tea.
Unlike farmers in western Sonoma County, Wirtz is not plagued by gophers or raccoons.
“I have to trap a few gophers,” he says, “but ground squirrels do as much or more damage. There are no raccoons at all.”
He’s also noticed an increase in damage by deer, as the farm is nestled between a creek and a wild area.
Paul’s Produce, founded in 1987 and operated by Paul Wirtz and Candi Edmonton, is located at 19655 Arnold Dr. in Sonoma. A farm stand operates from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. You’ll find Paul’s Produce year round at the Sonoma Valley Farmers Market and at the Valley of the Moon Certified Farmers Market on Tuesday evenings from May 1 through October 30 in Sonoma town plaza. For information about the CSA program, visit paulsproduce.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 996-6610.