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Got bacon? It’s time for a BLT. The new Tusque Farms may be the first out of the gate with local tomatoes. They have just harvested their first Early Girls.

The farm, located on five acres of The Kick Ranch in Rincon Valley, currently is harvesting Rainbow chard, Red Russian Kale, Lacinato kale, collard greens, zucchini and other summer squash, basil and those first Early Girls. Their pepper plants–several varieties, including Padrons, Corni di Torno and every color of bell pepper–are already three feet tall and their delicious melons, including absolutely extraordinary yellow watermelons, should be early this year, too.

“We want people to have summer produce in the summer,” farmer Ariel Russell says, “instead of having to wait until fall.” The farm includes 5,000 square feet of green house space, which allows for the early start.

Tusque Farm's yellow watermelons are among the best I've ever tasted.

Tusque Farms takes its name from a regional French term that refers to old lands, especially those old country lands that support agriculture and viticulture. It is operated by Arieland Jeff Russell , formerly of Redwood Empire Farm, in partnership with Glennand Melissa Alexander of Bacchus Vineyard Management and Sanglier Cellars.

The beloved Redwood Empire Farm closed down after the 2012 harvest.

By any measure, 2012 was a pivotal year for the Russells. For nine years, the couple sold their extraordinary Redwood Empire Farm produce at the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market and operated a successful subscription program. They opened a farm stand, too, at the east Santa Rosa farm, which was on land owned by Jeff Russell’s great aunt.

On New Year’s Day last year, Russell’s great aunt passed away. Heirs to the property want to pursue development and their plans don’t include an organic farm, so the couple were given the year to wrap things up. In May, their first child, Marley Mae, was born, Russell sprained his knee and a number of things went wrong in the green house that significantly reduced their 2012 harvest.

Yet they’ve barely missed a beat and certainly haven’t missed a season. They got an early start at their new location this year and have had so much basil and certain other greens that they’ve used Cropmobster to sell what hasn’t moved at the one farmers market they are currently attending.

“Cropmobster has been just great,” Ariel Russell says, “we sold all of our basil, quickly.” It was offered at $1 a bunch, instead of its usual retail price of $3 a bunch, with a ten-bunch minimum required. (For more information about the program, visit cropmobster.com.)

The farm’s name reflects the couple’s passion for community farming and for connecting to the region’s past. They’ve always specialized in heirloom varieties and hope to expand their crops to include heritage grains, antique fruits, hops and other crops with a history in Sonoma County.

Their subscription program is back this year and will kick-off on June 25 with about fifty members and room for fifty more. This year, they’ve added a half share to accommodate requests. A half share, ideal for a single person or a couple, is $12 a week; a full share, which feeds a family, is $25. Membership is flexible; you can sign up for four weeks at a time or full a full season. There are several pick-up locations and for $3 a week your bag will be delivered to your Santa Rosa home.

You’re welcome to visit the farm, too. All you need to do is call, text or email first.

Currently, Tusque Farms attends the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market, located at 50 Mark West Springs Rd., on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.. When the new West End Farmers Market opens on Donohue St. next to the DeTurk Round Barn on June 23, Tusque Farms will be a vendor; the new market will operate on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.. The farm will join the Occidental Bohemian Farmers Market, which takes place in downtown Occidental from 4 p.m. until dusk, on July 19.

Tusque Farms, located in Rincon Valley and owned by Ariel and Jeff Russell, was founded in 2013. For more information and to sign up for the farm’s CSA program, visit tusquefarms.com. To arrange for a farm visit, call or text (707)953-6150 or email info@tusquefarms.com.

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