A fledgling startup called Farmster, created by a group of Sonoma State University students after they graduated last year, is now growing at the SOMO Village in the southeastern corner of Rohnert Park. Its goal is to create a sustainable farming enterprise that not only provides healthy food to the local community, but also an education resource toward understanding what growing local really means.
SOMO (Sonoma Mountain) Village is a unique mixed-use community.
With large goals backed by boundless enthusiasm, Farmster looks to create a place that doesn’t bypass the disconnect many people have between buying food in a store, where the food actually comes from and what it takes to get to the retail stage.
The group is comprised of former SSU students Tomio Endo, Allison Jenks, Dustin DeMatteo and Jamal Edwards. The group had been involved in a few sustainability and growing clubs on campus and started talking about this idea they had during graduation ceremonies in 2015.
“We had heard about the SOMO Village wanting farming for a section of the village and that seemed to be the right space at the right time for our idea,” said Endo, who is the group’s executive director. While tossing ideas around over a few pints at Lobo’s on the SSU campus, the group came up with their name, a play on “hipster.”
From there it was a lot of work to develop a business plan, find working space at the SoCo Nexus, a local community for startups, and then start raising funds to develop the 5-acre community farm they are leasing.
“It can be hard,” said Endo. “We all have day jobs, but Farmster is a special project and provides us with a sense of home and allows us to pursue something we are passionate about.” Currently Farmster has seven active members plus volunteers.
The group has received a lot of support, both locally and outside of the area from people involved in the sustainability movement. Endo and Edwards quickly cited people such as Connie Codding and Brad Baker from Codding, Nick Caston from the Leadership Institute for Ecology, current Vice Mayor of Rohnert Park Jake Mackenzie and Gerard Guidice of Sally Tomatoes for providing advice and support. There are also a host of local growers who have influenced them.
“We’re not looking to reinvent the wheel, but instead to create more opportunity,” said Endo. He is developing an internship program for SSU along with looking at education opportunities for the community, such as having junior high and high school kids involved in summer programs along with a local CSA box program.
While Mother Nature has pushed back their timetable for preparing the land for their first planting, the group is working to raise $20,000 and is preparing for the Farmster launch event on Feb. 19 at Sally Tomatoes starting at 9 p.m. Tickets are $5 at the door and the evening will include music, a raffle and more.
“More than just building this for now, we want to build a project we can pass on to the next generation of farmsters too here in Rohnert Park,” added Endo.
For more information on the Farmster movement, visit Farmster.nationbuilder.com.