Although you wouldn't realize it by looking at the wooden boxes and bins filled with colorful chiles, cucumbers and eggplant, Tierra Vegetables hasn't yet hit its 2012 stride. The peak of its harvest is still about three weeks away.
"This is due to colder than normal night temperatures about a month ago," Evie Truxaw, wife of farmer Wayne James, explains.
Even with the delay, the current harvest is bountiful: There are Sungold cherry tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, tomatillos, Globe and Japanese eggplant, several varieties of summer squash, slicing cucumbers, pickling cucumbers, sweet red onions, yellow onions, garlic, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, beets, kohlrabi, chard, lettuces, sweet basil, watermelon and several varieties of potatoes. The farm also has plenty of both sweet and hot chiles, including poblano, inferno, padron, gypsy, Jimmy Nardello and several others.
Later this week, there should be tatsoi, bok choy, lemon cucumbers and more melons. Romano beans and Blue Lake green beans are another week or so away, but shelling beans, including the fabulous marrowfat, a creamy white bean, are in full swing.
The farm produces a number of post-harvest products, including fresh dill pickles, sauerkraut, fresh and dried hominy, heirloom grits, heirloom cornmeal and several seasoned salts, such as chipotle salt and smoked onion salt. They are running low on their hot pepper jams and jellies; they make seven varieties and there are just three remaining from last year's chile harvest. Production for new batches will begin any minute. They will also be making new batches of vinegar-based hot sauces.
There are almost no eggs right now. Most of the hens have quit laying and the farm won't be increasing its flock until spring.
Wayne James has been farming in Sonoma County since 1976, when he was one of the vendors at the very first farmers market on its opening day. Over the years, he, his wife and his sister Lee James have grown their organic produce on several different properties, including the James' parents' property on Chalk Hill Road. Today, the farming operation is consolidated on a single parcel, 17 acres of open-space land leased from the county, though the greenhouses remain in Chalk Hill. Sometime next year, they'll lose four acres to the expansion of Highway 101 and Airport Boulevard.
Last September, the farmstand was moved from the front of the 651 Airport Blvd. property. It is now adjacent to the historic White Barn, set back from the road but readily visible and accessible.
Tierra Vegetables currently attends two farmers markets, the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Market on Saturdays and the Sebastopol market on Sundays. Most of the harvest is sold at the farmstand, to the 120 members of the farm's CSA program and to a handful of restaurants. There is room for more CSA members.
Tierra Vegetables, founded in the 1970s by Wayne and Lee James, attends the Sebastopol Farmers Market on Sunday mornings. The farm store is open Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information and to sign up for the farm's CSA, visit tierravegetables.com
Michele Anna Jordan hosts "Mouthful" each Sunday at 7 p.m. on KRCB 90.9 & 91.1 FM.