Meet Ana, owner of Golden Nectar Farm
As part of Food Matters' on-going work to provide access to locally
produced healthy food for everyone, I get to take school kids out
to visit farmers
markets and on farm tours this fall. Visiting local farms is a great
way to get kids outside and educate them about what food looks like
when it's still in the ground; what some of those weird looking plants
taste like; and to find out what the heck a farmer does all day.
before doing that, I felt compelled to visit some local farms myself.
Boy, was that a good idea! I would love to tell you about them all,
but here's one for starters.
On a foggy morning, I headed out to Golden Nectar Farm. Past the
town of Windsor, it's a bucolic drive through the peaceful countryside.
Upon arriving, I pulled into the circular driveway and was enthusiastically
greeted by the farm dog, a "must" for every farmer, right?
Ana Stayton welcomed me into her living room, introducing me to
her latest intern from Sweden. We said our hellos and the intern
went off to check the farm's work board for the day's priorities.
Ana and I wasted no time getting outside to view her 2 1/2-acres,
which turned out to be packed with delightful surprises. Ana and
her husband purchased this property about 6 years ago from Paul
Vossen, Sonoma County's UCCE Farm Advisor. Since one of Paul's specialties
was fruit-trees, it came with a well-established orchard, with trees
short enough to harvest without a ladder. There is actually quite
a lot growing in this compact space. There are a variety of stone
fruits, apples, pears, plums, figs, thorn-less blackberries, two
kinds of kiwis, 20 varieties of table grapes, a large blueberry
patch, and strawberries, a veritable fruit flavored jungle!
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As we wandered, Ana talked and picked samples of this and that
for me to taste - strawberries, blueberries, Majenta lamb's quarter,
white borage flowers, and strawberry guava blossoms. Besides all
that, Ana has several laying hens providing plenty of eggs, and
grows herbs and vegetables in the back of the property. She has
transformed her straight rows into permaculture-like swales (oval
shaped mounds) with twisting pathways all around them. She's started
ripping out the black weed cloth that covered the ground around
all the fruit trees and grapevines and is replacing it with mulch.
Experimenting with under-story plants (like companion planting),
Ana wants to see if they can co-exist with the fruit trees and vines
without stealing vital nutrients from them.
Ana is blessed with a lot of clay in her soil and, not deterred
by a challenge, she's found a positive use for it. They are building
a pond back by the veggie garden and will use the clay to help seal
it. Ana has also constructed a straw bale building (again using
that limitless supply of clay), with a living roof composed of sod
and plants. Finally, there is the outdoor cob kitchen-rustic, but
definitely functional! It is basically a roofless circular structure
whose adobe wall is about 3-4' high. There is a small opening in
the center, with benches coming out from the wall. In the center
of the floor is a small fire pit. One piece of the adobe wall pushes
up into an arch, which holds a small brick oven. Next to the oven
is a sink and next to that, a built in Weber! It is a great place
to just sit and enjoy the peace and quiet of this wonderful garden.
Ana uses her extensive background in herbs creating value added
herbal products, both medicinal and cosmetic. With her knowledge
of nutrition, she also sees the opportunity she has to educate and
connect with people in her local community by inviting them out
to the farm. Golden Nectar farm produce is sold at the Sebastopol
and Cotati organic farmers markets, and to local upscale restaurants,
including Zin, Ravenous, and Café Lolo.
The farm has a natural and kind of wild feel to it, which I found
enchanting. Oh yes, I almost forgot to mention that they have converted
their house to solar and run their car on veggie oil!
It is a great place to visit. I can't wait to come back with carloads
of kids and pick weeds to munch on and veggies to grill on the barbie
in the cob kitchen, while we learn about the healing qualities of
some strange and marvelous herb.
By Linda Peterson, Food Matters in Sonoma County,
Farm Tour Coordinator