Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tara Firma Farms

I was very lucky enough to spend a very sunny and clear Sunday morning out at Tara Firma Farms, a few miles west of Petaluma, on "I" Street extension.  They offer farm tours every Sunday on the hour from mid morning to early afternoon.

Craig and Tara Smith, proprietors of Tara Firma Farms, came into Central Market for dinner the other night.  Coincidentally (or not) I had just been poking around their website earlier that day.  In fact, I emailed them about a special dinner they are sponsering for now-famous Virginia farmer, Joel Salatin.  If any of you read The Omnivore's Dilemma, Michael Pollan's treatise on the benefits of sustainable farming and the negatives of Monsanto and their corn/cow industrial machine model, you will remember Salatin as the owner of Polyface Farms, where he rotates his fowl and cattle systematically to increase the recovery period of the grazed grasslands, and maximize the animals' natural grazing and foraging behaviors.

The Smith's at Tara Firma are emulating Polyface in that manner, as well as other sustainable, ecologically rich practices that make me proud to live just a few miles down the road.  Cheery with a tanned face and infectious energy, Craig showed Tony Najiola (my new boss) and I around the ranch, traipsing down muddy roads lined with bright green and white milk thistle plants, under electric fences and out to the chicken pens which they move every few days so the chickens have fresh greenery to ingest.  The cattle were high up on the hill happily munching on fresh grass blades.  We made our way across the muddy field (thank God for my new Orchard Supply Hardware $17 rubber boots!) and admired more chickens out in the open: colorful  reds, whites and grey plummage pecking around their mobile chicken coop and hanging around the edges of the pig pens. 

At dusk Craig and his staff corral them back in to ensure safety from the racoons, opossum, and coyotes that would love a fresh plump chicken dinner (and I can't quite blame them).  The pigs, well they are another story.  Loving the mud and rooting around in the dirt, they couldn't have looked happier.  Large sows laid on their sides, teats exposed for the little 2 week olds running around.  There were about a dozen 2 month olds and quite a few beheamoths oinking and snorting and sticking their noses through the fence.  I wanted to stay there all day watching them be their pig selves.

We finished the tour walking through a large open barn where the Smith's hold events and parties, inviting the community to experience their way of life, and turning people on to their CSA meat boxes, $35 or so dollars a week, with an alottment of fresh meat, chickens and vegetables, perfect for a small family and way healthier than anything you will find at Safeway.  Tara Firma feeds about 100 or so families a week off their produce and meats, and connect the folks in our community to the freshness and health of non-factory farmed organic meats and greens.  Tara Firma also has a farm store that you can stop by and pick up their seasonal offerings without the commitment of a weekly drop.
Tours Sundays starting at 10.

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