Healdsburg farmer dedicated to Middleton Farm
Middleton Farm is well known for its colorful and orderly displays of an abundance of produce. Buyers flock to the stand for berries, asparagus and garlic, each in its own season.
From Bay Area restaurants to local farmers markets, the business has its staunch allies who purchase the organically grown fruits and vegetables. While big changes have occurred at Middleton in the past couple of years, one person continues to care for the property with dedication and a passion for locally grown food.
By way of a garden in Los Reyes, Michoacán, Mexico, where he learned to love the land as he worked at his grandfather’s side, Samuel Calderón Mendoza came to Middleton Farm in Healdsburg soon after immigrating to the United States. For more than 20 years, he’s worked the farm with a love and passion for growing produce that equaled Malcolm and Nancy Skall’s, the owners who first employed him.
While Malcolm Skall’s death in 1999 left Nancy Skall working the property as sole owner, Sam Calderón never failed to support the aging woman, until her death in January 2015, too, brought more changes to the farm. Skall’s daughters kept Calderón on the property and treated him fairly during the interim. He’s stayed in contact with them.
Middleton Farm is now owned by Annie and Montgomery Woods, who purchased the tract from Skall’s daughters, and Sam Calderón, 41, continues to be chief farmer of his beloved property. The farm is an 8-acre treasure of rich alluvial soil near the confluence of Mill and Felta creeks. Riparian habitat is filled with birds whose calls echo across the property.
“Farming is hard work,” says Calderón, whose calloused hands are a testament to his daily work with the soil. But he goes on to say, “I want to do this for the rest of my life.”
He notes that soil is everything and that nothing on the farm is “lost.” If the Farm to Pantry gleaning group cannot use the occasional glut of produce, it goes right into the line of compost bins so the nutrients can be incorporated back into the loam.
The Woods, who live in San Francisco, had been looking for farmland when the property came up for sale. They kept Calderón on for his expertise and for his dedication to the property, organic farming and local food.
“We are grateful to have Sam join our team after working at Middleton Farm for over 20 years with Nancy and Malcolm Skall. Sam is an exceptional farmer who is committed to organic produce and the local food economy,” says Annie Woods.
Each spring, he plants 4,500 new strawberry plants on the plot that includes 2 acres of orchards and 6 for planting beds. Asparagus waves its fernlike leaves in the late summer breeze, offering a hint of what’s to come next spring.
“I never thought I’d pay $11 a pound for asparagus,” said Lynne Brett of Geyserville. “But it’s the best ever.” Brett is a frequent visitor to the Healdsburg Farmers Market, and to the Middleton Farm booth.
Willie Cain agrees. He lives outside Healdsburg and gets “all my food” from the farmers’ market. He, too, is passionate for local food.