By Sustainable Solano
This is an ongoing series profiling local farms that have Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) available in Solano County. CSAs create a way for community members to buy a share of the harvest directly from local farmers. Customers pay a set amount and receive a box of seasonal produce or other farm products in return. Such arrangements help farmers receive a greater share of the money paid, bring customers fresh, local produce and promote health, community and the local economy.
Paul Underhill, Paul Holmes and Hector Melendez of Terra Firma Farm
Terra Firma Farm is a certified-organic farm that has been growing fruits, nuts and vegetables year-round for more than 25 years and supports dozens of employees.
The farm started in 1984 when Paul Holmes and his friends started farming a few acres in the hills west of Winters under the name Sky High Farms. Paul was one of the founding members of the Davis and Berkeley Farmers Markets.
Eventually the farm name became Terra Firma, as Paul Underhill and Hector Melendez became co-owners. The acreage grew over the years as demand for local, high quality, organic produce rose, CSA Manager Alicia Baddorf said.
“The owners recognized the desire of city folks to reconnect with local farms and know more about the source of the food that they and their families were consuming,” she said.
The farm has offered a CSA for more than 15 years.
Below is a Q&A with Alicia about Terra Firma Farm:
- Terra Firma Farm
- 200 acres
- Established 1984
When did you start offering a CSA? Why was it important to offer?
We started offering a CSA in 1994 at a single site in San Francisco’s Mission District. We were one of the earlier farms to offer a CSA program, feeling that it was important to bridge the gap between urban folks and the food chain.
Are there special perks for CSA members? Why do people tend to subscribe?
CSA members get to enjoy fresh, seasonal and local produce every week. Subscribers who pay a larger amount up front receive a bonus, and those who refer their friends receive a referral credit. People tend to subscribe because they are looking for a good source of fresh, local, quality fruits and vegetables. Many people also want to support a small farm that uses organic practices that align with their values.
What’s something that makes your farm stand out?
We are committed to providing sustainable employment and encouraging local economic development. We provide full-time, year-round employment for our workers. We employ roughly 10 times as many people per acre as most farms in our region. By selling, packing and delivering our products ourselves (adding value) we are able to offer a range of jobs that allow employees to move vertically as their careers progress.
Anything exciting on the horizon? What do you see happening and what do you want to see happen with interest in local food?
We are always adjusting our crop plan and working on a feedback loop. This year we have been working with Brad Gates of Wild Boar Farms, who is trialing a mix of his tomato varieties on one of our properties. He develops wacky and beautiful looking tomato varieties, so it has been exciting for us to learn about and harvest new varieties of tomatoes that add some flair to our mixes.
Anything else you’d like to add?
We are always looking to offer fruits and vegetables to more households in Solano County. If anyone is interested in hosting a pick-up site in exchange for a weekly box of produce, please contact me for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Find out more about local CSAs here.