When Sarah and Seth James launched Open Field Farm, they hoped to sell their produce exclusively through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program but, two years into their endeavor, they have more harvest than they do members.
This is good news for anyone who wants to discover the farm before subscribing, as they attend the Petaluma Farmers Market on Wednesday and Saturday.
Open Field Farm, a former dairy, chicken ranch and cattle ranch with 560 acres, is located on Spring Hill Rd. in west Petaluma. Four acres are in production with a fifth acre reserved for dry farming; Corriente cattle, a small breed, graze on the remaining land, provide manure for compost and will also provide grass-fed meat, likely by next year.
The farm’s current harvest includes corn, sugar snap peas, shelling peas, green beans, zucchini, cucumbers, lettuce mix, broccoli, cabbage, kohlrabi, turnips, fennel, garlic, green onions, carrots, beets, parsnips, rutabaga, collard greens, chard, kale, flowers and a selection of herbs, including basil, cilantro, dill and parsley. Soon, there will be sweet melons, dry-farmed tomatoes, shelling beans, dried beans and dried corn.
The CSA program operates for 27 weeks, from mid May to mid November. Members pick up produce at the farm on Tuesday or Friday afternoon, when you may also harvest flowers, herbs and vegetables. The farm provides tools and, if needed, guidance. The weekly bounty includes a newsletter, with farm news and recipes. This information is also posted weekly on Sarah James’ blog.
A full share, ideal for a family of four, is $1000, which is $37 a week. A single share, suitable for one or two people, is $650, $24 a week. The farm offers a variety of payment options.
There are many benefits to being a CSA member, beyond the obvious. You have an opportunity to really get to know the farm, the land and the farmers, to watch the seasons unfold through an ever-evolving harvest and to take your children or grandchildren with you. There is space for kids to play and there are picnic tables set up if you want to linger on pick-up day.
The farm uses both organic and biodynamic practices and manages the pastures by rotating where the cattle graze so that the land can rest, grasses and flowers regrow and pollinators and other wildlife can complete their life cycles undisturbed. Water is managed carefully, with both drip irrigation and dry farming where possible. Diverse crops, trees and hedgerows attract a wide array of birds and other critters both small and large.
The farm is operated by the James and four employees.
Seth James, who is from the East Coat, studied sustainable agriculture at Sterling College in Vermont. Sarah James is from the Bay area and has worked as a line cook in both Los Angeles and New York. The two met when Seth was a staff member in the Visiting Students Program at Hawthorne Valley Farm in Harlemville , New York, and Sarah took a summer job there as camp counselor. They married in 2005 and have three children, Teddy, born in 2012, Oliver, born in 2009 and Margrethe, born in 2006.