CCOF has been around for a while now - we turn 41 this year - and some certified members have been with us the whole time! We’re proud to be leading the organic movement alongside such accomplished organic pioneers and producers.
The commitment to organic is not to be taken lightly. Organic producers work to grow and make foods that are good for the environment and good for the body. Together, we are working to prevent the spread of GMOs, protect biodiversity and natural resources, minimize the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, and eliminate antibiotics and hormones from our food system. Congratulations to the following members who have been certified organic for more than 35 years. Thank you for your work and commitment to good food!
This month we celebrate Cherry Hill Orchard, Heirloom Organic Gardens, and Sweetwater Farm/Oldies & Goodies.
Cathy Moore Reyes’ mother, Dorothy Moore, started her orchard’s organic certification back in 1973 after trying several different ways to market her crop. She was happy to find a community of like-minded farmers and learned management skills from them that she employed until passing away in 1990. Cathy worked with her mom before her passing and has continued farming ever since. Cherry Hill Orchard is located in Sebastopol, California, where the heirloom Gravenstein apple once reigned supreme. In 2005, this tasty tart apple variety was declared a heritage food by Slow Food USA and is included in their “Ark of Taste.” Wine grapes and rural estates have replaced much of the historic apple production in the west Sonoma County region, yet Cherry Hill Orchard has remained dedicated to maintaining their second generation (going on third) apple farm as a viable organic enterprise. Despite offers to sell their land for development, they have continued to support the production of apples against many odds including the loss of regional processors, low prices for fruit, and difficulty obtaining seasonal harvest help. In addition to their west Sonoma county orchard, Cathy expanded organic operations by adding their mixed orchard trees, pasture, and forage land in Dunnigan, California, to the CCOF certification program. Cherry Hill Orchard is CCOF’s farm with the longest-running certification, certified since March 1973.
Grant Brians has been farming since age 14, but he began farming organically in 1975 on Brians Ranch in California’s Santa Clara Valley, the first farm in the valley to be certified organic in 1976. Grant is one of CCOF’s original members, with experience in small-scale and corporate agriculture. He acquired Heirloom Organic Gardens in 2006, now farming 175 acres in the Hollister area, which includes Brians Ranch, and 50 acres in Panoche Valley.
Grant believes strongly in having a wide range of interesting and good tasting crops that evangelize the benefits of a diverse diet and promote interesting things to eat. His family prides itself on growing organic vegetables, fruits, and other crops that they like the taste of, primarily choosing heirloom varieties and ensuring that they all meet specific taste requirements. The gardens offer over 200 varieties throughout the year, most of which are open-pollinated. The gardens’ oldest variety, Golden Custard, is a yellow, scallop squash that dates back to the middle ages!
Heirloom Organic Gardens’ crop rotation decreases the likelihood of pest buildup in the fields and the need for control, while field edges offer windbreaks, serve as beneficial insectaries and wildlife promotion areas, and provide habitat for birds and grogs. Grant is also dedicated to promoting the wellbeing of others, including workers and their families, and offers permanent employment to 15 through year-round crop production.
Read Grant’s eloquent thoughts on organic farming and life at the farm on Facebook.
Oldies & Goodies! Organic Plant Starts is a local wholesale plant nursery, started by Lena Hahn-Schuman in Sebastopol, California, more than 15 years ago.
In the 1970s and 80s, as Sweetwater Farm, Lena and her husband Herschel grew organic sweet peas, tomatoes, and other crops for sale mostly to Bay Area “sensitives,” who needed to find produce grown without pesticides. “They would come to our farm and enjoy purchasing our produce and being inspired by our lifestyle, gardens, chickens, and goats," says Lena.
Currently, Oldies & Goodies grows excellent heirloom and modern hybrids of early spring, summer, and fall plants for sale to local nurseries, locally owned supermarkets, and produce markets. They primarily grow food plants but also offer edible, especially easy, or charming flowers that are at home in a food garden. These flowers come in six-packs, jumbo six-packs, and 4" pots. Oldies & Goodies saves seeds from many of their tried-and-true open-pollinated tomatoes, lettuce, peas, beans, and flowers. They purchase seeds of peppers, corn, and other crops. Lena adds, “We are always open to ideas from our customers, who love to call and tell us how the plants they bought from us are growing and producing!”