MP: We bought Indian Springs, a 33 acre organic farm in Penn Valley in 1986. We grow a variety of row crops and an orchard, plus there is a wood lot and pasture for the sheep. And we have burros, cows, and chickens. We make our own compost – not many farms do that. It’s good fertility. You know what you’ve got – no green waste from the city with herbicides and other problems.
I’ve been an organic farmer for 38 years. We are one of the longest standing organic farms in California, certified by CCOF as well as with the county. The certification influences all of our farming practices like rotation of crops, how we irrigate, how we turn our soil – it’s all part of it. We have to keep records, and it’s expensive, but growing food organically is really important for the future of the world. What you put into your food is what you put into yourself. It’s the best way to farm for the health of the planet.
SH: How are you working with NU?
MP: Sierra Harvest contacted us and asked if we would be interested in providing local food for the schools. My kids went through the schools here, were born on the farm and raised here. We’ve had kids out here touring the farm. So I’m happy to get our produce into the high school – we sold plums, pluots, and butternut squash to three area high schools this year.
SH: What do you enjoy about SH’s potlucks?
MP: I love seeing all the different farms, looking at their equipment, irrigation, planting patterns, what they’ve done with the wet zones. And then you get to talk to people who are interested in farming and food. I always make a lot of connections, someone is looking for a piece of machinery or an animal or wants to buy squash or corn.
SH: What’s your vision for local food in our community? What would you like to see happen?
MP: We sell what we produce almost entirely locally, at local stores, farmers’ market, etc. I think other farms should be able to do that as well. It’s the most efficient use of the energy it takes to haul food around. There is less refrigeration, less storage – the food is fresher. We’ve started something called farm direct. It’s like a combination between a farm stand and a farmer’s market. We set up a booth and sell the food right here. When someone asks where a vegetable comes from, I can just point over the hill. That’ the way it should be.