"Are these yellow carrots as sweet as the orange ones?"
"Is this broccoli organic?"
"Are these orange peppers sweet before they turn red?
These are a few of the questions Tom Noble of Armstrong Valley Farm fielded during the 15 minutes or so that I spent at his booth on Sunday at the Sebastopol Farmers Market.
Noble is a soft-spoken guy, and answers each question quietly and specifically.
To the carrot query, he explained that many customers prefer them and find them sweeter than their orange cousins. As far as the broccoli goes, yes, it is organic. And those ripe orange peppers, the ones that sit beneath a sign that reads, "Sweet Peppers"?
"They're as sweet as apples," Noble says.
Tom Noble had been a welder for 30 years when he gave up his long-time profession and launched Armstrong Valley Farm eight years ago on land that has been in his family since 1906. He farms a little over an acre, nestled near the entrance of Armstrong Woods in Guerneville. He and his family live across the street from the farm.
Noble's harvest is diverse. Currently, he has several varieties of sweet and hot peppers, including Padrons; several varieties of summer squash; three types of beets; white, yellow and orange carrots; yellow and red onions; broccoli; butter lettuce; garlic; Napa cabbage; kohlrabi; tomatoes; lemon cucumbers; kale; and several varieties of potatoes and pickling cucumbers. Noble may be best known for his gorgeous cauliflower, purple, Romanesco and, sometimes, Cheddar, an orange cauliflower that is delicious roasted whole. For a few weeks after the first of the year, he also has citrus, grown by his brother in Healdsburg.
Armstrong Valley Farm is an excellent source for eggs, too. Noble keeps about 150 Rhode Island Red hens, happy girls who run around at will during the day, and he manages the flock to maximize egg production during the winter months when many flocks stop producing. He does this naturally, by always having plenty of hens at peak laying age.
The farm is surrounded by a large fence that keeps deer at bay and Noble doesn't have much of a gopher problem, either.
"But something is burrowing along my row of carrots," he says, "looking for grubs." I've heard this from several people this year and have the same problem myself, for the first time since I moved to my west Sebastopol home in 1988. Grubs are apparently the delicacy du jour for some of our four-footed friends.
You'll find Armstrong Valley Farm, founded in 2004, year round at the Sebastopol Farmers Market on Sunday mornings and the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market on both Wednesday and Saturday mornings. The farm also attends two seasonal farmers market, the Occidental Bohemian Farmers Market on Friday evenings and the new Guerneville Certified Farmers Market, founded this June, on Thursday afternoons.
Michele Anna Jordan hosts "Mouthful" each Sunday at 7 p.m. on KRCB 90.9 & 91.1 FM.
E-mail Jordan at email@example.com.
You'll find her blog, "Eat This Now," at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.