Box of plenty

  • Lisa Schmitt and her daughter Ingrid, 4, weigh their allotment of tomatoes at Foggy River Farm, west of Windsor, on Wednesday, September 5, 2012.

To find Emmett Hopkins' 4-acre vegetable patch nestled next to the Russian River, you have to look for a small, "Foggy River Farm" sign on Eastside Road, then follow a gravel road for a half mile through vineyards heavy with fruit.

On a late summer afternoon, there is no trace of fog at the ripening field, where rows of tomatoes and corn, eggplant and peppers are ready to be harvested for the farm's 52-member CSA, or community sponsored agriculture, program.

"This was a really good year for eggplant," said Hopkins, sporting a sun hat. "There was one hot spell in the spring, which hurt the broccoli and the cauliflower. The trade-off was early tomatoes and summer squash."

In a CSA program, consumers pay in advance for a weekly supply of produce. That enables farmers to buy seeds and equipment in the spring and ensures a steady demand for their produce in the fall.

"Emotionally, it's really nice to have the produce going to a good home," Hopkins said of his CSA program. "There's nothing more frustrating than trying to find someone who will at least eat it."

Hopkins and his wife, Lynda, who met while pursuing five-year master's degrees at Stanford University, have been farming for four years at his family's 200-acre ranch near Forestville, where he grew up.

Hopkins' grandparents bought the property in the 1950s, tearing out hops to plant prunes and pears. In the 1970s, his dad made the transition to grapes.

Now, following in his family's footsteps, Hopkins is finding ways to make the farm sustainable for a new generation through his innovative CSA program.

"We focus on giving great value to our members," he said. "But we also focus on building a strong community."

Like other farmers, the couple has diversified, raising heritage turkeys and a flock of chickens for eggs along with vegetables and herbs.

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