"We're having an unusually dry year," Jess Flood, wife of the farm's general manger Nick Papadopoulos, of Bloomfield Farms in Petaluma says, "and we may have to rethink what we grow this summer."
In the middle of winter, these farmers are surprised to find themselves irrigating the fields. Typically, or at least recently, the organic farm's extensive winter cover crops receive sufficient rainfall to flourish. In addition, the dry-farmed potatoes, one of the farm's signature crops, rely on a buildup of rainwater. Without adequate rain, they must irrigate and, possibly, search for a new suitable field for potatoes.
Farming techniques shift a bit, too, when Mother Nature leaves the land thirsty.
"With so little rain, plants are stressed," Flood explains, "and when they are stressed, they are more vulnerable to disease and to bugs. We've seen an uptick in aphids, which would normally die off in the rain."
For an organic farm, this means spending more time in the fields, looking closely at the plants. The farm is lucky to be situated in the path of strong winds from the coast, blowing through Valley Ford. These winds blow beneficial insects that live in the farm's hedgerows into the fields of crops, which helps keep the pests under control.
Even with the season's challenges, the farm is thriving. The current harvest includes arugula, dandelion greens, mache, nettles, Chioggia beets, Bull's Blood beets, red chard, green chard and other sturdy leafy greens. There's a delicious salad mix and several varieties of head lettuce, including Cherokee, Little Gem, Speckled Trout and Romaine, along with fresh rosemary, thyme and mint.
Currently, eggs are limited but the number will increase when new baby chicks begin laying in a few months. By fall, there will be estate honey, too, as the farm has added a lot of new hives, which Flood oversees.
Bloomfield Farms's community-supported agriculture program operates year round, and currently there is a special offer, the "Long Haul." When you sign up for 24 weeks, you get an extra six weeks at no charge.
The cost of the weekly or biweekly box of produce varies. There are two sizes. When you pick up your box at the farm, the cost is $18.50 for the smaller box and $26.50 for the larger box. If you have your box delivered to one of many drop-off locations, there is an additional charge based on the distance between the drop location and the farm. Costs top out at $25 and $35.
Flood loves to talk directly with subscribers, as it personalizes the relationship, so she encourages people to subscribe by phone rather than on the website. She'll even accommodate personal tastes if at all possible, which means if you hate, say, turnips you may not have to toss them on your compost; you can simply ask that they be left out of your box.
Last year, Bloomfield Farms hosted "U-Pick Sundays" with great success. The program will continue, but on a monthly basis and with some exciting changes, which will be announced when things get started in April. As always, the farm will offer tours to school groups and invite certain nonprofit organizations in to glean the fields.
Bloomfield Farms, established at its currently location, 12550 Valley Ford Road, Petaluma, four years ago, is owned and operated by Mike and Karen Collins. Nick Papadopoulos is the farm's general manager. Currently, the farm attends the Sebastopol Farmers Market on Sunday and the farmers market at Larkspur Landing on Saturday. For more information and to sign up for the CSA program, visit bloomfieldfarmorganics.com.