Tom Noble's Armstrong Valley Farm is nestled in a canyon, which means it gets the full brunt of the cold weather. He farms without greenhouses as well, and so this year, so far, has been quite difficult.
You wouldn't know it based on his stall at Sunday's Sebastopol Farmers Market, which seemed remarkably abundant, with pretty little lettuces, kales, garlic, potatoes, beets, carrots and lots of eggs.
It's deceptive, Noble says, as he's scraping the bottom of the barrel of pre-frost crops. There's no more cabbage, just a few potatoes and the last of the shallots and garlic. Lettuce is just about done, too.
He has no chard, either; few farmers do, as hard freezes decimated it. There is very little citrus, as it hasn't been warm enough for it to ripen.
There's Lacinato kale and red kale but, mostly, there are beets and carrots, plenty of them.
Noble often describes his carrots as ugly and they are certainly not the cover-girl carrots we've come to expect from photographs. They are not straight; they are knobby, some fat, some thin. But it is hard to find a better tasting carrot anywhere; Armstrong Valley carrots have a delicate, pristine texture, lots of carrot flavor and an alluring sweetness. The orange ones are good but the white ones and yellow ones are off-the-charts extraordinary. They are delicious raw and also excellent in soup, juiced or pretty much any other way you want to enjoy them.
He has plenty of eggs, too, as his hens are laying more now that the days are longer.
"Are you making plans for spring planting yet?" I asked.
"I'm not going to think about spring until the freezing weather is over," he replied, adding that he is hoping for more rain, too.
Aren't we all.
Noble began farming on family land a decade ago. The farm, a bit over an acre, is nestled near the entrance to Armstrong Woods in Guerneville and is across the street from where he and his family live. The farm is protected from deer, there don't seem to be many gophers and, so far, raccoons have been minding their own business.
His challenge now is Mother Nature herself.
During our last long-term drought, which began in the late 1980s, ended around New Year's Day 1994 and wasn't nearly as severe, there weren't so many small family farmers as there are now. If little rain falls this year, it will be really difficult for them.
What can you do?
Don't give up on our farmers markets. Engage with the ebb and flow of nature and do all you can to help our small farmers survive. It is more important than ever to support them by shopping locally.
Armstrong Valley Farm, founded in 2004 by Tom Noble, attends the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market at the Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday and Saturday and the Sebastopol Farmers Market on Sunday in the town plaza year round.
Michele Anna Jordan hosts "Mouthful" each Sunday at 7 p.m. on KRCB 90.9 & 91.1 FM. E-mail Jordan at firstname.lastname@example.org. You'll find her blog, "Eat This Now," at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.