“I want to recreate the experience of having a home garden for customers who don’t have one,” Lee Higbeeof the new Farm Sinclair says. Such freshness, he believes, is what makes customers choose a famers market over a grocery store.
Currently, Higbee attends two farmers markets with rainbow chard and heirloom variety lettuces, including Red Romaine, Ruby Red and Buttercrunch. He also has Bacon avocados, named for James Bacon, a farmer who developed the thin-skinned variety in the early 1950s, and loquats from a 25-foot tall tree.
Loquats, you ask?
The loquat is a small fruit originally from China that is high in both pectin and sugar, with a large central seed. Higbee enjoys them neat, right off the tree, and sliced into fruit salads. I think they’re delicious in chutneys, marmalades and jams, too.
Soon, Higbee will have Japanese mustard spinach, mustard greens, Shishito peppers and Chantenay carrots, with orange skin and a red core. German butterball potatoes are going in the ground soon and Higbee is considering planting an heirloom variety of corn, the kind he remembers from his childhood with more corn flavor and less sugary sweetness. As the season progresses, he’ll have antique apples, peaches, two varieties of figs–one Mission , one a rare variety the name of which he has not yet discovered–and quince.
Farm Sinclair is a new endeavor, founded two years ago on land that has been in Higbee’s family since the 1940s. The name refers to Clan Sinclair, a Highland Scottish clan and part of his maternal ancestry. His grandmother Ruth was a Sinclair.
In 1989, Higbee moved to Japan, near Tokyo, where he married, had two sons and worked as a senior manager in an internet technology company. Right about the time he was thinking of leaving his high-stress career behind and returning to the United States, the 2011 earthquake and tsunami hit. Soon thereafter, he returned to Sonoma County, where he had lived until he was seven, when his family moved to Alaska. Lucky for him, the land his grandparents had purchased in Guerneville above Mays Canyon was still in the family. Farming, which he’d wanted to pursue since early adolescence, offered an appealing alternative to the high-tech world.
Today, he farms not quite an acre, using bio-intensive techniques, and is currently expanding to about an acre-and-a-half. The loquat tree and avocado tree are on his mother’s property in Forestville but the other fruit trees, planted decades ago, are at the main farm.
Higbee considers the Russian River Certified Farmers Market his primary market and is also attending the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market on a trial basis.
Farm Sinclair, founded in 2011 and owned and operated by Lee Higbee, attends the Russian River Farmers Market, located in the parking lot of Sonoma Nesting Company (16151 Main St., Guerneville) on Thursday afternoons from 3 to 7 p.m. You’ll also find the farm’s harvest at the Santa Rosa Original Farmers Market (50 Mark West Springs Rd.) on Wednesday and, when space allows, on Saturday. To reach him directly, email lee.higbee@FarmSinclair.com