Everything at Sonrisa Family Farm in Petaluma seems to radiate with an inner glow, a sense of purpose, of intention and of beauty. The first word that came to mind as farmer Lisa Colorado lead me around the five acres where she and her husband have lived for more than a decade was “adorable.” This is not to suggest the farm is not a serious endeavor; it absolutely is. But there are sweet embellishment everywhere, from the way tile stepping stones leading into a green house overlap to the vintage aprons–her mother’s and grandmother’s–adorning the walls of the farm store.
By late Saturday afternoon little produce remained, just fresh dill, small winter squash and beautiful drying gourds. But there were plenty of eggs ($6 a dozen) and a freezer full of plump (4 1/2 to 5 pounds, $6 a pound) Freedom Ranger chickens.
Although this is the farm’s slowest time, as winter crops wind down and spring crops await a warmer sun, the farm is harvesting several varieties of kale and chard; there’s broccoli, too, and a bit of cilantro. The dill is almost done but the greenhouse is full of flats of perky spinach, lettuce, arugula and more.
Whatever the farm is harvesting, you’ll find it at the Petaluma East Side Farmers Market, which takes place on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Community Center on North McDowell Blvd.
The farm, which opened last July, is an expression of Lisa Colorado’s commitment to true sustainability. Although her eggs and poultry have been an instant hit with consumers, she doesn’t intend to increase production or focus exclusively on these things.
“That wouldn’t be very sustainable,” she explains.
Last year, she raised about 400 meat chickens and plans to keep to that number this year.
Currently, she gets about 24 dozen eggs from her flock of 100 hens, a number that will double by late spring. The hens live in chicken tractors, small portable wooden houses surrounded by soft moveable fences, which gives them a huge range. They look remarkably good for January; they are plump and full feathered and seem to enjoy having their one rooster, Lucky Larry, in their midst.
There is a small herd of Angora goats, too, with gorgeous faces, playful temperaments and full curly coats that will need to be sheared in another few months. When it is available, which is usually April and September, their wool is sold at the farm store and at Balls and Skeins in Sebastopol.
Soon, a flock of Italian ducks will join the other animals here. They have an appetite for snails, slugs and those bothersome cucumber beetles. Colorado also plans to add a hedgerow to the garden this spring to attract more beneficial insects.
The farm includes 40 young heirloom fruit trees, with several varieties of apples (Empire, Jonathan, Golden Delicious, Spitzenburg, Gravenstein, Calville and Cox Orange Pippin); Bartlett and D’Anjou pears; Arctic Jay white nectarines; Early Elberta peaches; Bing and Rainier cherries; Late Santa Rosa plums; Meyer lemons and Bearss limes.
Parallel to a row of young fruit trees is a row of hops, just now awakening from their winter dormancy. As we walked the farm, Lisa knelt down and brushed away some of the dirt to show the little knobs that will grow into a fresh, fragrant crop, which she’ll sell wet, not dried.
The farm store is a repurposed commercial storage container and virtually everything inside and out had another function before finding a new home here. There are windows from her family home in San Francisco, old dressers, doors, hutches, signs, baskets, tubs and more from friends and relatives and an authentic ’78 RPM record player, with a stack of 78s alongside.
The farm is a family endeavor, with the Colorado’s three children helping as they can. Although it is pristine and pretty, it doesn’t really seem brand new. It has a solid feel, which comes, I think, from Lisa Colorado’s passionate and passionately sensible approach to organic and sustainable farming. This is a farm to watch, a Petaluma treasure in the making.
Sonrisa Family Farm, founded in 2012 and owned by Lisa and Juancarlos Colorado, is located at 2454 East Washington St., Petaluma. The farm store is open from noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday except when it is raining. As spring harvest kicks in, it will open at 10 a.m. Wednesday through Friday. For more information, visit sonrisafamilyfarm.com or call 778-8564.
Roasted Sonrisa Farms Chicken • Serves 3 to 4
When I am cooking chicken that is either a new breed or from a new source, I always cook it simply, with just salt and pepper. This is how I can best understand how the chicken cooks, what its flavor profile is and what sort of muscle structure it has. I was surprised that this chicken, which weighed in at nearly 5 pounds, cooked as quickly as it did–in just 50 minutes. I expected to cook it for an hour and a half but it was done in nearly half that amount of time. The breast meat was remarkably juicy and tender and the thigh and leg meat was absolutely succulent, but with a well-defined muscular quality. In all honesty, I cannot remember tasting chicken this good except in Kuching, Sarawak, in East Malaysia. This is extraordinarily delicious chicken. Lucas, who is 11, shared it with me, gobbled his first helping of breast meat, asked for more and gobbled that up, too. We had farro and chickpeas with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and Italian parsley and cole slaw alongside.
“Really good dinner, Mimi,” he said to me as he went off to finish his homework.
- 1 Freedom Ranger chicken from Sonrisa Family Farms, thawed (see Note below)
- Kosher salt
- Black pepper in a mill
- Remove the chicken from the refrigerator an hour before cooking it and take it out of its plastic package. Remove the lumps of fat inside the cavity and reserve them for another use.
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and set a ridge pan (cast iron is best) in the oven.
- Season the chicken inside and out with salt and pepper.
- When the oven reaches 425 degrees, carefully set the chicken, breast side down, in the hot pan. Cook for 20 minutes.
- Remove the chicken from the oven and carefully turn it breast side up. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and cook for 30 minutes more.
- Use a meat thermometer to test the thigh meat at the thickest point. If it reads 150 to 155 degrees, pull the chicken from the oven. If not, cook for 5 to 10 minutes more.
- Remove the chicken from the oven, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest 15 minutes.
- Carve and serve.
Note: For the best taste and texture (and to be completely safe), thaw all meat, seafood and poultry slowly, in the refrigerator. This chicken took two full days to thaw but the wait was worth it.