Farmer Spotlight: Fog Dog Farm

Kristen Draz & William Holland of Fog Dog Farm
Kristen Draz & William Holland of Fog Dog Farm

Kristen Draz & William Holland are prime examples of the new generation of farmers who are working the land in Nevada County. Sierra Harvest talked with them about their farm, Fog Dog, which is located on the San Juan Ridge.

SH: First of all, why “Fog Dog”?

Kristen: I worked on a farm for three years and it was coming to an end, so we were looking for a new farm. On the day we found our land, the word of the day in was Fog Dog – a bright spot appearing through the fog. It was perfect.

SH: Tell me about your farm.

Kristen: We are lucky to lease the home farm of Amigo Bob, formerly known as Heaven and Earth. It’s 11 and a half acres, with a little over an acre fenced, with infrastructure. There is also a ¾ of an acre orchard with fruit trees, cane fruits, grapes. We are growing primarily diversified vegetables: different types of basil, sugar snap peas, gourmet salad mix with pea shoots, leeks, different varieties of garlic, Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes. We are trying to go with the really minimal tillage system, mostly hand work with a hoe and broad fork, steering clear of machinery, using a permanent bed system.

SH: Why did you choose this method?

Kristen: Scale – being on an acre of land gave us room to be creative about what kind of system we wanted to use, because we don’t necessarily need to use a tractor to cultivate our space. We both worked on farms with tractors, and just wanted to try a different technique to build the soil.

Will: I’ve always wanted to get away from tractors. I was sold on John Jeavons’s double digging method and the benefits of vertical tilling to reduce compacting the soil, preserve the microbiology. We just got a new tool called a “tilther,” designed by Eliot Coleman, that allows you to till only an inch and a half. Neither one of us is a mechanic, and there is a loss of efficiency as a farmer until you learn how to be a part-time mechanic. It’s also about quality of life –not having to listen to a motor.

SH: What do you love about farming?

Will: I find agriculture to be at the nexus of so many of society’s “Needs Improvement” list. I find it utterly important to the human condition to find some balance with the way we produce our food, the way we live in our spaces. Actively working in sustainable agriculture is a way to explore those questions. I’m fascinated by the environmental aspects, the health aspects, people’s relationship to the land. I’m hoping to study agriculture science at Sierra College.

Kristen: We complement each other. Food justice ideologically inspired me to pursue this type of farming, but I really just love digging in the dirt. Taking it to market and having someone appreciate that you grew this food for them – the simplicity and beauty of it. I love having a job that allows me to create beauty for myself and others.

SH: What is the biggest challenge of farming?

Kristen: You have to be a business person in addition to being a farmer when you are growing and marketing your own food. Juggling those responsibilities simultaneously is no small feat.

Will: Maintaining perspective, taking care of yourself and life and making time for quality of life. Taking time off is the biggest challenge, like going on a drive that has nothing to do with buying seeds. We could do more of that type of thing.

SH: How can our community support you?

Will: Our community is already supporting us in a number of ways. It’s a learning process for everybody. I had an agrarian elder tell me this year that our job is to bring people to the farm. People have been taught that healthy food is important. The farmers have become more and more important. Now it’s the land’s turn – the land is becoming more and more important in people’s lives. We want to learn how to incorporate people into a space without losing that place. We have to tell the eaters what we can do, and the eaters have to tell us what they want to eat. I’ve never been in a more engaged community around food and space.

SH: Where can we find your food?

Kristen: Nevada City Farmer’s market. We’ll be at the winter market debuting this year, the first Saturday of every month.

Will: We also sell to Three Forks and Curly Wolf (they are making sage lattes right now from the sage that we grow) and the Tahoe Food Hub.