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Orchard Farms a market institution

Orchard Farms is one of the year-round heavy hitters at farmers markets in Santa Rosa, Sebastopol and Marin. The farm was founded in downtown Sebastopol in 1994. Its primary property has been located on Barnett Valley Road in west Sebastopol since 1995. In addition, farmer Ken Orchard leases three other pieces of land, two in Petaluma and one, the historic Laufenberg Ranch, in Calistoga, for a total of about 33 acres, though currently only 15 acres are in production. The Laufenberg Ranch, a property of the Sonoma County Land Trust, is under development, a work in progress.

Currently, Orchard Farms' tables are piled high with burdock root, Brussels sprouts, beets, mache, Chinese greens, shallots, celery, winter squash, curly parsley and Italian parsley. Kale is nearly over for the season, and last Sunday saw the end of arugula; any day now, there will be a new crop of rapini and radishes.

The first of spring's crops, purple sprouting broccoli, will be ready in late February or early March, about the time Orchard will be harvesting leeks. Spring salad mix won't appear until late March or April.

Orchard arrived in Sonoma County with a bachelor's degree in agroecology and environmental studies from UC Santa Cruz, a pursuit that underscores his deep commitment to providing certified organic foods to as wide a population as possible. His market booth is clearly that of a working farm, with an abundant harvest year-round. At the peak of the season, it takes up to four staff members to keep up with things.

"These days, I'm really grateful for technology," Ken Orchard says, "for weed-blocking materials, irrigation and the sprays that we can use in emergencies. Good technology allows me to farm as I do."

In addition to selling at farmers markets, Orchard Farms operates a weekly community-supported agriculture program, as well. There are currently about two dozen subscribers, with room for a few more.

Orchard Farms, founded in 1994 and owned and operated by Ken Orchard, attends the Marin Civic Center Farmers Market on Thursday and Sunday, the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market on Saturday and the Sebastopol Farmers Market on Sunday. For information about the farm's CSA program, call 823-6528 or visit orchard-farms.com.

Michele Anna Jordan hosts "Mouthful" each Sunday at 7 p.m. on KRCB 90.9 & 91.1

FM. E-mail Jordan at michele@micheleannajordan.com.

You'll find her blog, "Eat This Now," at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.


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