The Frates Rd. entrance to Green String Farms is lined with olive trees and rose bushes planted in wine barrels. The Adobe Rd. entrance takes you through fields of crops punctuated by trees, marigolds and other flowers, past a large chicken coop filled with happy laying hens and a few other farm buildings before you reach your destination, the farm store, with its with freshly-harvested produce.
In mid-August, the patio is filled with mounds of tomatoes, some ideal for sauce, others for slicing and some for popping in your mouth right there. Heirloom tomatoes are $3 a pound; all others are $1 a pound. Nearby, bins full of eggplant–some purple, others nearly black–all but beg to be turned into ratatouille.
There are a lot of peppers, too, more Padrons and Shishitos than I’ve seen anywhere, thousands of them, offered at $6 a pound. There’s a small basket of hot peppers, bins of Hatch and Gypsy peppers and red and green bell peppers.
Little carrots and beets, Patty Pan squash, round zucchini, Romanesco zucchini, broccoli and big heads of cabbage, perfect for making cole slaw and sauerkraut, all but tumble from their containers. Pretty heads of several varieties of lettuce are tucked carefully into their bins, with leeks, celery, bunches of herbs and tiny radishes, just $1 a bunch, with perfect leaves nearby.
There’s a lot of kale and chard here, too, and some of it may make you gasp with surprise. The chard especially is enormous, with some leaves as long as three feet. Yet it is as delicate and tender as any chard I’ve had. Lacinato kale is pretty big, too, and absolutely delicious. All the chards and kales are sold loose, for $3 a pound.
There is a lot of fruit right now, too, peaches, nectarines, plums, apples and Asian pears. Adjacent to the long row of fruit are $5 boxes of past-its-prime produce, including pickling cucumbers, sauce tomatoes, fruit for jams and chutneys. If you can rush home and spend a couple of hours working in the kitchen, you’ll snag a bargain.
This entire bounty is what you see before you enter the store itself. Inside, there’s more, including potatoes , tiny onions, loose garlic, garlic braids, almonds, dried herbs, herbal salves, honey, butter, cheeses, olive oil and, if you’re very lucky, eggs.
Eggs here sell out quickly but if you miss out in the morning, you can stop by in the afternoon and try your luck. They are gathered twice daily.
As you shop, you’ll likely see enthusiastic young people here and there. The Green String Institute is located adjacent to the farm and and every three months there is a new crop of interns learning the sustainable farming practices of founders Bob Cannard Jr. and Fred Cline of Cline Cellars.
Green String Farm is about as earthy as you can get without walking into the fields and picking things yourself. Nothing is prettified here, beyond the natural beauty of crops grown with thoughtfulness and care, which, to my thinking, is true beauty. Prices are quite reasonable, too, putting high-quality produce within reach of just about anyone who lives in Petaluma, Lakeville and southern Sonoma. If you don’t live nearby, you might add a stop Green String Farm next time you’re in the area. It is a true treasure.
For more information about Green String’s programs and practices, visit greenstringinstitute.org and greenstringfarm.com.
Green String Farm, founded in 2003 and open to the public in 2006, is located at 3571 Old Adobe Rd., at the the corner of Frates Rd. in northeast Petaluma. It is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.