Yesterday we teamed up with Whole Foods Northern California for a tour of Front Porch Farm in Healdsburg, CA.
Located directly on the banks of the Russian River, this beautiful 110 acre farm is the brain child of Mimi and Peter Buckley and guided by the deft intuition and mind-boggling talents of farmer Matt Taylor.
Like much of the land in that area, when the Buckleys bought the farm in 2010, it had been in production as a vineyard for the past 30 years. Prior to that, the land had mostly been planted with stone fruit orchards. But the Buckleys have a far different vision. Although still in its infancy, the plan from the very beginning has been to move away from the monoculture of vines or orchards and restore the land to a far more concentrated system with a high level of biodiversity.
“The scale is something we wanted to be able to see from our front porch,” Peter told us. Hence the name. (Although they’ve been so busy with the farm itself, they still need to build that porch.)
Under Matt Taylor’s guidance most of the vineyards have been removed (there’s still some Syrah growing on the surrounding hillside, from which they’ve already produced some marvelous wines) & approximately 65 acres are now devoted to a wide range of food crops from 40 different varieties of tomatoes, zucchini, and numerous grains, to fiddle head ferns and edible bamboo!
Curious about growing wheat, Peter approached Community Grains shortly after buying the farm and has been growing three different varieties of wheat for us for the past two years. The first crop showed great promise & served as a basis for our initial wheat tasting panel. Yesterday, we saw wheat planted last October which is nearly ready to harvest, as well as newly sown wheat just starting to sprout its first tillers.
The focus for these first five years will be to work on building up the soil using principles of organic and bio-dynamic farming, crop rotation, animals, and community, paying special attention to incorporating often overlooked or forgotten varieties and breeds. As well, they will be paying close attention to how all these variables affect & interact with productivity and the general health of the farm as a working system. While small in size and still just starting out, the farm is already an astounding menagerie brimming with vitality, experimentation, and discovery. It’s a nice feeling to know our wheat is in such good hands.
After an extensive tour, meeting two new baby goats, and seeing the Front Porch Farm pig cuddled up with a flock of chickens our hosts treated us to an indelible feast composed entirely of food grown on the farm and prepared by Chef Mateo Granados, a passionate farm-to-table advocate and a wonderful talent. There was purslane salad with poached farm eggs, roasted beet and wheat berry salad, summer squash, carrots, corn masa cakes, potato salad (including five different kinds of potatoes!) roasted cippoline onions, roast pork loin, and venison (from a deer that apparently picked the wrong blueberry bush to munch on.)
It was a magical day that ended with dipping our toes in the cool Russian River. Does it get any better than that?
Thanks to everyone at Front Porch Farms and Whole Foods Market for making it happen.