Indian Valley Campus Organic Farm

So many years ago, more than I want to tell you, I took a class on an organic farm, at the Santa Rosa Jr. College. Bob Cannard was the teacher. I ran into him again last year at Bioneers, he was talking about farming, the same common sense, use what you have philosophy of the last time I'd seen him. Except everything he said was new again, as exciting as the first time I'd heard him. He talks a lot about dirt, taking care of the dirt, where the dirt comes from, how important the dirt is. He's teaching again, or maybe still, I haven't followed him closely. He teaches interns at Green String Farm in Petaluma; a wide expanse of a farm with rolling hills of vineyards as a back drop, a real old wood barn, chickens and a farm stand open year round. It's worth seeking out.

Last week I found myself at another organic school farm, this one younger, on the campus of College of Marin at Indian Valley. The student tended rows of turnips, lettuces, beets, and kale reached from the open space land that cradles the entire campus to a soccer field that caters to joggers, bike riders and dog walkers, not a person with a ball to be seen. And the first thing the farmer did when he walked through the gate, you already know, he picked up a handful of dirt and brought it to his nose. He seemed to relax then, the feel of dirt on his hands, the difference between the classroom and the garden. He reached for a calendula, handed it to the first person beside him, another and another, I had one too. Orange and yellow calendulas, no two the same and I never knew they could grow in such variety.

He with the dirt on his hands was Steve Quirt, the planner and teacher on the farm, our tour guide for the visit. He's another farmer, like Bob Cannard, who knows the importance of dirt. And Wendy Johnson, also a teacher at the farm, we didn't have her pleasure but it's impossible to know about the farm and not know about Wendy. She was there in the impossibly silver artichoke plants and the fava beans, magenta blossoms. Deep, saturated magenta. She's the same Wendy Johnson of Green Gulch Farm, and the author of Gardening at the Dragon's Gate, a big green book I've entered through a hundred different gates or often while beating back the weeds looking for a damn gate.

The farm at Indian Valley has a farm stand of sorts too but the hours appear random. It's either open or it's closed. A shaded roof and plywood tables. If there's class I suppose, and vegetables to be picked, enough to actually sell, it seems they sell them. How perfectly wonderful for the neighborhoods nearby, the communities of people on foot, what a bit of magic to bring home a bag of peas or a pair of artichokes from so close to home. From school. It's their secret garden. (Don't tell anyone you read it here.)

And while they're there, neighbors meeting again or for the first time, at the cyclone gate near the metal sink with a hose running in it, I hope someone invites them to pick up a handful of the dirt, bring it to their nose and, yes, take a smell of it. Maybe you will too, if you find yourself the next time at a farm, letting the dirt fall slowly, in dusty drifts through the text books of your hands, appreciating it for everything we eat.

4 comments:

T_McLeod said...

Ahh, the scent of earth. Yes! Today, I had fun with my boys having them put their hands into the compost to see how hot it gets.

Kale for Sale said...

T McLeod - Boys and dirt. It doesn't get better than that. Except teaching boys about compost and dirt. Good job!

Audrey said...

Not sure why it never occurred to me to smell soil, my hands spend so much time digging in it and crumbling and sprinkling it, but I'm going to start doing it. I bet it's catching. Happy spring growing to you.

Kale for Sale said...

Audrey - I probably shouldn't tell you about the farmer in the movie Dirt - he tasted it. I'm not going there. Happy Spring to you and the little farmer too.