This is the first in a series of posts on Happyday Farms, the CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture) program located up here in Northern Mendocino County, run by Casey, Amber, Lito and Courtney.
Happyday Farms. Sometimes I wonder if it isn’t more a state of mind than an actual entity. Then I look out my back window onto a set of terraces, recently sculpted from the soil with the tools of the trade, and formed into bountiful rows of burgeoning produce, and there is no doubt. What was once a homestead thirty-some years ago, has evolved into a flourishing agribusiness, featuring organically-grown produce all year-round, being snapped up by the residents of Northern Mendocino County.
The Community Sponsored Agriculture program (CSA) is the material manifestation of Happyday Farms, but there is more to the canvas than fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices and flowers. There is a spirit that abounds which permeates the air and infuses the residents with energy and optimism. There is so much vibrancy and effervescence everywhere one turns, it’s impossible to remain downhearted for any extended period of time.
After he built the original chunk of his home, back in 2004, Casey began planting the typical kinds of back-yard-garden veggies into beds which had been pre-laid with some form of gopher-proof wire or lattice, over which the soil was spread. As he began to expand his area of interest by excavating the steps, he realized that after a few years he would have to go through and replace all of the lattice due to the inevitable breakdown of the material underground. He therefore stopped inlaying the lattice and began to adopt more practical means of pest control, beginning with the acquisition of four farm cats to protect the vulnerable young greens from mice and other rodents.
When he and Amber, who had spent several years in the community working on another organic farm, partnered up, Happyday Farms began to take shape. Here and there along the way, Casey hired a a guy who operated an excavator to shape the long terraces that allowed him to grow fresh produce where the terrain is anything but flat. Now he rents the excavator and does the work himself.
The southwestern-facing slope is ideal for growing a great variety of vegetables, and our proximity to the ocean and our elevation of 3,300 feet, keep the climate more temperate in the fall than the nearby valleys. In the lower elevations, the cold drops and the growing season for tomatoes and other frost-inhibited plants is the end of September. Up on the mountain, we never get a frost before November and I have taken tomatoes off the vine in December a half-dozen times at least.
We get plenty of dry heat in the summer so the hot-weather crops thrive and we use greenhouses in the winter to keep fresh lettuce and cooking greens available all year-round. Kale is constantly in demand especially in our household. Over the past few years, I have dramatically altered my diet so that the majority of what I eat comes from either Happyday Farms or the local hippie store.
What we also get plenty of around here is harmony and humor to go with the hard work and long hours. I say “we” in the general sense of the word. I leave the farm work to the younger set, while I do those tasks that are more age-appropriate for a gray-beard. I did move and stack those three cords of oak/madrone and I have been carving steps into the newly-terraced back yard, or west-40, to make it easier to move compost and nutrients around the site. I have also begun the spring weed-eating process, but most of the time I am more likely to be found cleaning up after meals, sweeping and mopping the floors of the inevitable mud, or otherwise keeping things flowing on the domestic front.
I am also to be found taking photos of the farm itself and all that goes on there. What does go on there? Next post. Don’t want to kill the job.