CSA anyone?

Welp, all 500 heirloom tomatoes are in the ground, as are the sugar baby watermelon, the swiss chard, and the violet artichokes. This rain has been nice, as we’re still grappling with the irrigation set up. The rabbits self-watering system is functional, just in time for the hot weather. Now we’re looking around at all the fruit trees starting to develop fruit, the grape vine’s plump promises, and we’re realizing that come July, the place is going to be pumping out the produce. In the beginning, Abeni and I were planning to sell the bounty to restaurants or at my pop-up farmstand or the pop-up general store. But we’re rethinking that now.

We want to have an ongoing relationship with our customers. We want them to experience the seasonal changes–and bounty–with us. So we’re putting it out there: we’re offering 15 CSA memberships to people in the Bay Area. Starting in mid-July we will offer a box per week through the end of November. The box will include vegetables like lettuce, greens, tomatoes, cucumbers; fruits like figs, grapes, Fuyu persimmons, pineapple guava, and apricots. We will also sign people up for shares in our goats so they can receive milk and yogurt. At certain times we will be able to include a rabbit or chicken/rooster in that week’s box for an extra few dollars, if that’s something you would like. A box will cost $60/week, to be picked up at my farm in downtown Oakland on Saturdays.

For now I’m just taking a poll: who would be interested in signing up for our CSA?

Note that the full-priced shares will go to offset an additional 5 shares that will be reserved for low income people from San Lorenzo.

Hard Work

You should see my arms. All scratched up from wrestling with blackberry vines and tree limbs. Yesterday Abdul, Jamila, Karim, Abeni, and I chipped an enormous pile of trees and brush that we generated clearing the fields of the farm.

As Abdul chain-sawed bottle brush trees and giant shrubs, we hauled the branches over to the chipper. It was a big, powerful one, and satisfying to use. The chips bounced around, and the goats eagerly ate up any of the chunks that landed in their area, kind of like a goat version of a smoothie. The sweet-smelling chips covered up the ugly asphalt—so much better than hauling the green waste to the dump and paying $60/ton. As Abdul cleared away the crap trees, fruit trees were revealed: an almond, another pear, a Fuyu persimmon.

The barn is now officially clean, I powerwashed the interior last week, then we bleached it, fixed some boards, put screened windows up and organized (or threw away) all the assorted stuff that had accumulated there. We found lots of useful items like tools, irrigation supplies, lumber, roofing material. Karim built out the frames to hold the rabbit cages, and we put together the cages using hardware cloth and zip ties. I’m hoping to pick up eleven rabbits next week.

My body is really trashed, especially my hands. But it feels good to be resurrecting this farm—Abeni and I think the former farmers arenodding their heads in approval, where ever they are.

Bringing the Goats

Despite the rain, we did get some work done today, Easter Sunday.

Abeni and Novella brought the goats over from Abeni’s urban farm in Oakland.

That’s Orla and Milky Way in their dog crate. The barn is in the background. And yes, that is a backhoe. Don’t ask.
Abeni and MilkyWay. MW seemed a little skeptical about the new digs at first. But soon, she and Orla realized they had arrived in heaven. It feels so great to get the goats out into the pasture, which is about 5000 square feet. They are happily eating and trotting around. We put chicken wire around the trees to prevent girdling by goat. There’s definitely room for Bebe and Ginger, and their kids, so we’re in good shape.

Next up for the goats is getting the barn ready for the sleeping quarters (e.g. hanging doors), making a birthing pen, and clearing the top of the barn so we can store alfalfa. Our dreams are coming true on our little acre farm!

Announcing…LaBrie Family Farm

Hey there.

We’ve just begun to resurrect a family farm in San Lorenzo. When I say San Lorenzo, people look at us like, “where?” Actually San Lorenzo had a rich history of farming. Originally the area was part of a Spanish rancho, spanning many miles of fruit orchards and ranches. Later it became a place for Italian, Portugese, and African-American small-scale farmers. These “truck farmers” raised cherries and corn, rhubarb and pumpkins–they took the produce to the streets of Oakland in trucks to directly sell to the people.

In the 1960s and 1970s, San Lorenzo became the ‘burbs and over the farmland, they built houses. Some people, like Peter and Beatrice LaBrie, kept an acre of land and kept farming. Peter and Bea were from New Orleans and they planted sugar cane, raised rabbits and chickens. In the 1990s, the farm went quiet, grass grew, the old barn became filled with old books and clothes, the pumphouse stopped drawing water from the well, the exisiting fruit trees kept making fruit for the family.

Now, in 2010, some of the LaBrie heirs started to think the farm should be resurrected. So we’re going for it. First, we have to clear it out, clean up the barn, and plant seeds. Our hands are dirty, we’ve been wearing dusty masks, and chopping down grass using a machete and a weed wacker. It’s hard work, but feels satisfying. Our plan is to raise dairy goats, rabbits, a few chickens, and French and Italian heirloom vegetables. We’ll sell at farmers markets, through direct sales at a pop up farm stand, and to local stores and restaurants.

This blog will tell the story of how the farm unfolds.