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Laguna Farms' leafy legacy continues

In the 1980s, three pioneer farmers -- Jeff Dawson of Grandview Farm, Leonard Diggs of The Farmery and Scott Mathieson of Laguna Farm -- began growing mesclun, a French-inspired mix of salad greens harvested young, leaf by tiny leaf. Before long, mesclun from Sonoma County began appearing on restaurant menus as far away as Boston, New York, Honolulu and Miami.

By the 1990s, Dawson and Diggs had moved on to other agricultural endeavors, but Mathieson kept producing his popular mesclun and had grown his farm into one of the county's most important local producers of high-quality organic vegetables, with the largest community-supported-agriculture program in the area and a presence at many of our farmers markets. He was one of the founders of the Sebastopol Farmers Market.

Two years ago, Mathieson sold his business to two long-time employees, who now lease the 25-acre farm, part of a large parcel of land on the southwestern edge of the Laguna de Santa Rosa that has been in his family for decades. Mathieson lives on the farm, manages several rentals on the property and works as a consultant to farmers.

Laguna Farm is a year-round endeavor, which means not only that its produce is available to CSA members and farmers market customers all year but also that the farm's 11 employees have continuous employment. To ensure year-round production, the farm now includes five leased acres across Highway 116, essential when the primary property floods, as it did late last year.

Laguna Farm's current harvest includes carrots, three types of beets, two varieties of turnips, two varieties of radishes, four types of kale, collard greens, chard, spinach, mustard greens, cauliflower, Romanesco broccoli, leeks and, of course, their signature salad mix. The farm also has winter squash, potatoes and onions from last year's late summer harvest.

Laguna Farm's CSA program currently has 425 members, with room for more. A weekly box picked up at the farm is $20. If you pick up at one of several drop-off locations, the cost is $24 and if you want your box delivered to your home, it's $26.50. A unique aspect of the program is the farm store, where members can purchase more produce, along with breads from Village Bakery, organic dairy products, organic dry goods, pantry items and more. And when you pick up from the farm, you may trade items you don't want. So if, say, you hate cauliflower, this may be the best option for you.

Jennifer Branham, one of the farm's owners, supplements what the farm grows with organic produce from other local farms and from organic farms throughout California, a practice Mathieson began many years ago, when he couldn't get into his flooded fields for months at a time.

Farming practices at Laguna Farm have long been beyond organic, though the farm is no longer certified. Like many farms, Laguna Farm dropped organic certification because of daunting paperwork requirements. There's a new solar project, too, with a long-term goal of providing power for all the farm's needs.

Laguna Farm, founded in the 1980s and currently owned and operated by two long-time employees, is located at 1764 Cooper Road, Sebastopol. For information about the CSA program and members-only farm store, call 823-0823, email csa@lagunafarm.com or visit lagunafarm.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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