Former Food Love intern Stu Matthews and his friend Drew Speroni are starting a new farm on four and a half acres on Newtown Road in Nevada City. Early Bird Farm will specialize in early and late season vegetables. In the short term they hope to sell assorted vegetables at farmers markets, and to grocery stores and restaurants. Long-term they are looking at selling eggs, meat, and even grain milling through a partnership with Grass Valley Grains. What will truly set Early Bird apart from other local farms, however, is the business model that they envision – a worker-owned cooperative. Stu explains: “Owners are more invested in the success of the business. It would be like Briar Patch, except members would be workers instead of consumers. I want to use our success as a vehicle to get young farmers started in the profession.”
Stu learned how to farm after working in IT for ten years, and ultimately realizing that he was in the wrong profession. He started by volunteering at community farms in San Francisco, and learning about permaculture. He and his wife traveled the world, WWOOFed in Arcata, and eventually found the Food Love Project. (WWOOF or World Wide Opportunities on Farms is a way for aspiring farmers to trade labor for learning on farms all over the world.)
What does Stu love about farming? “I like working with my hands and being outside. It’s important to me to have local food security, especially in the context of climate change.” Stu has plenty of suggestions for how the rest of us non-farmers can help ensure our local food security: “Support all of the farmers in the area – buy local! It’s easy to do at Briar Patch. Ask other grocery stores to buy more local produce. Go to the farmers’ markets and buy there. You are supporting people in your community and it supports our economy as a whole.”
The farm is now up and running — they have planted in the ground and have thousands of seedlings started in the greenhouse. Interested parties can contact Stu at email@example.com or (530) 362-8456.