About 20 of us from Sonoma County, Marin and San Francisco had a fabulous day visiting WHOA (Work Horse Organic Agriculture) Farm in Santa Rosa on Father’s Day! There were 5 current and one former Weston Price chapter leaders in attendance! It’s a record!
Here is the story from our wonderful tour guide and farmer, Elli:
The farm was started by Wendy and Eddie Gelsman in 2011. They had an extensive home garden and were donating their excess food to St Vincent de Paul (a local non-profit that provides free meals and support for those in need). They noticed that much of the food that was being donated by stores was 2 week old produce ~ not very palatable or nutritious. They saw how much need there was in the area so they purchased some land and started growing. In the first year 4,000 pounds of fresh produce was donated. In the second year 25,000 pounds of food was donated and this past year over 40,000 pounds of fresh food was donated. They anticipate even more this year. This year they will be at their max production.
They donate to organizations who serve populations that don’t have regular access to fresh produce, such as health clinics that have nutrition education programs; diabetes prevention programs, pain clinics and Champion for Change (an organization that helps family eat more vegetables and fruit). Some of the local organizations they donate to include: the Ceres Project, St Vincent de Paul, the Forestville Wellness Center and the Vista Family Health Center.
The family put a lot of their own finances into the infrastructure of the farm and they also have some grant funding from NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) that helps with soil building and water conservation. They also take donations and do fundraisers. Recently the owners leased a vineyard next door and with the help of the owner’s of Davis Family Vineyards, they plan to make and sell the wine that will cover half of the operating budget of the farm.
The farm is a registered organic farm. They have 2 flocks of laying hens (about 100 total) that are in mobile coops. Vegetables are grown on a 4-1/2 acre, an 11 acre parcel. Some of the produce they grow are strawberries, sweet corn, chard, garlic, onions, broccoli, beans, potatoes, peppers and flowers. One bed had broccoli and fennel interplanted because the herb repels insects that would normally eat the broccoli.
They use Halflinger draft horses to pull farm equipment made by the Amish. One new piece of equipment called “the homesteader” has easily interchangeable farm implements ~ harrow, tiller, disc, etc. They also use a tractor for some of the fields.
There are 4 full time staff doing the field work and one part time person. They don’t bring in any seasonal work but they do have occasional volunteers and interns.
Our delicious potluck included chicken liver, wild boar liver and lamb liver pates, several salads, cheeses, sauerkraut, sourdough bread, strawberries, sweetened nuts and chocolate truffles.
Here is an article to read more about the farm.
If you’d like to donate, here is a link. 100% of donations go directly to the production of more organic produce and to the delivery of that produce to the people who need it most.
By Karen Hamilton-Roth