After serving as co-director Malaika Bishop stepped into a part-time roll at Sierra Harvest last March in order to pursue her dream of starting a farm venture. We caught up with her to see how it’s going.
Tell us about your farm and where you are farming.
Bluebird farm focusses on greens and flowers. I have four part-time employees and we are growing ½ acre of flowers up at the Jacobson Dude Ranch on Cement Hill Rd and 1 acre of lettuce and cutting greens at Woolman at Sierra Friends Center.
Woolman burned in the Jones Fire in 2020. We spent last season working to rebuild and expand the farm site at Woolman last season and weren’t able to get anything in the ground until late Oct, so this is really our first full growing season. There is still a lot of infrastructure to be built but we are making it work.
What has been most challenging about farming so far?
Balancing the budget. In 20 years of running non-profits I saw some challenging budgets, but those pale in comparison to balancing a first year farm budget. I am holding out hope that it will get easier!
Waiting[MB1] a year for FEMA to clean up the fire debris on the farm site and now waiting on plans and grading to rebuild farm sheds has slowed down the timing on rebuilding the site and is pushing some of those winter projects into the main growing season. It is going to get REALLY busy!
What has been most rewarding?
Getting to finally grow and sell a few crops late last fall. Seeing beautiful rows of salad mix in the hoop house and long rows of ranunculus popping up this spring. It is going to be ridiculously beautiful.
Working hard with an amazing crew outdoors every day and seeing the transformation from a disaster zone to a beautiful cover cropped farm site.
Why the name Bluebird Farm?
Many people remember our farm site up at Jacobson’s fondly as Bluebird from the days that Leo Chapman and Tim Van Wagner farmed there during the Living Lands Agrarian Network days when we had potlucks and contra dances with 100 people there. (We merged Living Lands and Live Healthy Nevada County to create Sierra Harvest) We are bringing back the name Bluebird and using it for the whole farm.
Where can people get your products?
Well, we are partnering with Tim of First Rain Farm and Leo of Chapman Family farm on a collaborative Community Supported Agriculture box. You can sign up on the First Rain Farm website for a weekly installment of veggies. We will be growing the greens mostly (salad mix, lettuce, arugula, spinach etc).
You can treat yourself or a loved one to a FLOWER share and get a weekly installment of flowers all season long. Maybe a Valentine’s gift? You can sign up at bluebirdfarm.net . Full season shares are going fast, so don’t wait too long.
Mostly we will be selling our greens wholesale so you will see them at your local restaurants, schools, grocery stores etc.
What are you most excited about growing this season?
Veggies: I have to say I am excited to geek out on growing straight beautiful rows of greens really efficiently. The lettuce mix we are growing is out of this world delicious. We are growing it using a paperpot transplanter. I was a sceptic at first but am totally sold now.
Flowers: It is so hard to pick one flower with over 120 varieties but because they will be here first, I’m going to go with ranunculus. To die for, and a big feature of our spring flower bouquets!
After so many years doing farm education, is there any education in the future of Bluebird?
Why yes in fact! We are partnering with Sierra Harvest to host a field day for the upcoming farm conference March 3rd where you can learn about how to build start-up farm infrastructure and some of our favorite time saving tools we have built and purchased. We will be joined by Prema Farm from the Reno area who have many more years and farm hacks under their belts.
We will be also partnering with Woolman on their programming as they get up and running bringing school groups from the Bay Area up to campus to learn about Social and Environmental Justice. There will be a food justice component on the farm that we are excitedly building curriculum for. Also, participants of their summer camp will get to participate in farm activities in June and July. They are also hosting local school groups to do day long field trips on campus.