A conversation with Joey Smith, founder of Let’s Go Farm in east Santa Rosa, is inspiring, in a very focused way. The young man–he is just 30–is passionate about both farming and gardening.
“One of my goals,” he explains, “is to show people that they can grow a lot of food on a very small piece of land.”
He makes you want to go outside and start digging.
Smith’s primary mission is providing his community with good food, which he does at the Windsor Farmers Market and through a subscription program.
Smith founded Let’s Go Farm in 2011, after completing a two-year organic farming apprenticeship in Los Altos. He also studied Sustainable Agriculture at the University of California Santa Cruz. He didn’t learn to farm in the program but did come away believing that the only thing that will fix our broken food system is everyone growing some of their own food.
Early in the spring season, he sells plant starts to home gardeners.
Smith farms 1.3 acres on Wallace Rd. near Riebli Rd., land where he grew up and that has been in his family for decades. For 35 years, the land was used as a pasture for sheep and his first task was to turn it into a productive farm. By all measures, he succeeded and was a popular vendor at the Windsor market in his first season.
The farm’s current harvest includes two varieties of carrots, Atomic Red and Nelson ; purple beets; Chioggia beets; sugar snap peas; Hakurei turnips, a mild variety bred to be eaten raw, and Seascape strawberries. There are nine varieties of greens available, including radicchio; collard greens; dandelion greens; purple Osaka mustard greens; four types of kale, Lacinato, Curly, Red Russian and Red Ruffled, similar to Red Russian but sweet and more delicate, and Rainbow chard; mizuna has bolted and is done for the year. Currently available lettuces include the open-pollinated Devil’s Ears, grown with seed saved from last’ year’s crop; Roxy, a red butter-type; Magenta and Nevada, two varieties of crisp summer lettuce that take heat well; Parris Island Cos, a Romaine lettuce that produces big beautiful heads, and Forellenschluss, a German variety known as “speckled troutback” in English.
Smith and his farming partner, Max Bryer-Bass, just harvested the year’s first new potatoes, a pink-skinned variety called Colorado Red . These potatoes will likely be available only to CSA subscribers. There are two more varieties in the ground, Carola, a yellow-skinned variety, and Yukon Gem, similar to Yukon Gold .
Genovese basil, which sells really well at the market, is in the ground, as is Italian parsley. Other herbs–marjoram, thyme, chives and sage–are in the ground as well but won’t be offered until fall, when they’re at their best.
The farm includes several bee hives, too, mostly for pollination but also to educate visitors. They’re sweet and gentle, Smith says, not scary. By next year, subscribers may have farm honey in some of their boxes.
Let’s Go Farm’s 2013 community supported agriculture (CSA) subscription begins this Sunday, June 2, and continues through Thanksgiving. Currently, there are 14 members and room for 6 more. The cost is $21 a week and subscribers opt in for the entire season, though payment can be divided in two. There are three pick-up locations, including one near the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, where most members get their weekly boxes. Members may also pick up directly at the farm or at the farmers market.
One of the things that is so inspiring about Joey Smith’s passion for farming is that he’s in for the long haul. After growing up here, he left for ten years and returned two years ago to start his farm. He wants to spend the rest of his life in Sonoma County, he says, and sees farming as his life-long endeavor. At a time when we hear so much about the disappearance of the family farm, this news is so uplifting. It’s impossible not to smile when you think about it.
If you’d like to visit Let’s Go Farm, the best time is Saturday, when harvesting takes place.
Let’s Go Farm, founded in 2011 by Joey Smith, attends the Windsor Farmers Market on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. from April through December. For information about farm visits and the CSA program, email email@example.com.