Sonoma garden tour
Squashes, tomatoes, eggs and eggplants, melons and onions and leeks and lettuce, oh my! (Sonoma Magazine, Spring 2011)
Everything grows in Sonoma. Tomatoes and grapes, phlox and peony. So hospitable is our climate to matters vegetative, in fact, even the lowly hay crop turns over three times each year. Of course, a vigorous growing climate means allergens, too. When we first moved to Sonoma, friends warned us that if we didn't have allergies yet, we would. With poorly disguised glee they gave us five years, tops. Not true. It took a bit longer. Seasonal allergies caught up to us eventually, but it's worth a few sneezes to live here.
Here you can grow most of your own vegetables, whether you have acreage, a backyard, a balcony or a porch. Here, you can live year-round on veggies and cheeses produced within five miles of your home. It's an embarrassment of riches, truth told.
Cannard Farms, Fowler Creek, Paul Wirtz, Hardin Gardens, The Patch, Claudia and Roger Rannikar, and Oak Hill Farm all grow produce. Organically, and with a zealous commitment to sustainability. They sell their wares to the chefs of some of the Bay Area's finest restaurants, and to local consumers at Sonoma's Tuesday evening and Friday morning farmers markets.
Locavores know the importance of determining the provenance of their food. Knowing where and by whom their food is grown helps them sleep nights. And while local growers might charge a tad more for their produce, you'll know what went into it, and that it didn't take gallons of expensive fuel to get to your plate. Plus, food moved quickly from farm to table just tastes better.
An abridged garden primer for gawkers and gadabouts follows.
The Hardins started growing some of the world's most beautiful vegetables in the southern Sonoma Valley more than 25 years ago. Vendors at farmers markets for years, the Hardins now sell from a table at their small farm, occasionally offering tastes and tortillas. Daughter Amanda and husband Tony run the farm now, with the Hardins "close at hand as consultants, moral supporters and cheap labor." Watch for heirloom tomatoes, squashes, cucumbers, eggplant, lettuces, beets, melons and herbs.
Amanda also makes glycerin soaps to combat the dry, rough skin that plagues all real farmers. Admitting her hobby "has turned into an addiction," she now makes and sells bath salts, salt scrubs and herbal bath rubs. Open noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, July through September. 22656 Broadway, Sonoma, hardingardens.net
Sonoma Garden Park
The 7-acre Sonoma Garden Park, left in trust to the city by Pauline Bond, is now leased and managed by Sonoma Ecology Center. Under their stewardship the parcel has transformed into a magical fig forest, butterfly garden and 150-fruit-tree orchard. It's also home to 25 chickens, bees, a massive old oak tree, a solar well, crop circles and more than two acres of vegetable production.
Master Gardeners and local hobbyists farm 30 community garden plots side by side, and volunteers manage a Saturday farmers market, offer adult and kid workshops, host a seasonal Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, and stage a harvest festival.
Watch for eggs and eggplant, strawberries, Swiss chard, flowers, more veggies and recipes. Market open 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays. 19996 Seventh St. E., Sonoma. sonomaecologycenter.org.
Claudia and Roger Rannikar
Claudia and Roger grow beautiful vegetables in their triangular back garden. Loaded with prodigiously productive beds and a variety of semi-dwarf fruit trees and figs, their patch runs along Sonoma's Bike Path across from Vella Cheese. (Semi-dwarf fruit trees do not produce small fruit, they just take up less space than big fruit trees.) Claudia's Italian family has owned and farmed this property for generations. Wares are displayed streetside, with an honor change box for the use of passers-by. Watch for figs, pomegranates, onions, leeks, lettuces, chards and tomatoes, at least.
Locals grow all sorts of vegetables on this five-acre plot on Second Street East. Soil-feeding fava beans thrive throughout the winter, drawing nitrogen into the soil for spring and summer vegetables. While the tenants have stopped growing sweet corn, their tomatoes are sensational. All vegetables are self-serve, sold from a lean-to at 269 Second St. E., Sonoma. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Oak Hill Farm
Anne Teller and her helpers farm 45 of 700 protected acres off Highway 12. The other 655 are dedicated to the Sonoma Land Trust, originally funded by Teller's late husband, Otto. Oak Hill Farm grows 200 crops: flowers and apples, asparagus and zucchini, honey, gorgeous lettuces, herbs. Much of it is for sale in Oak Hill's Red Barn Store from April until Christmas. Teller conducts informative tours of the farm on the first Saturday of each month. 15101 Sonoma Highway, Glen Ellen. 707.996.6643. oakhillfarm.net.
From the Spring 2011 issue of SONOMA
Sonoma garden tour