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Cloverdale Reveille
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April 21, 2016     Cloverdale Reveille
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Thursday, April21,2016 Earth Day edi.tion PAGE3 Jl healthy obsession with local bounty grow'mance (grS'mans) -noun 1. a feeling of excitement and affinity for the prospect of a stronger, more collabora- tive local food community. AwlOCal pig farmer coined the ord "growmance" just as a owbell echoed through the grange hall in Sebastopol. At that signal, a few dozen farmers took their seats on one side of a long row of tables, while an equal crowd of food buyers -- chefs, dis- tributers, grocers, even school cafe- teria managers -- arranged them- selves on the other. And with a flurry of handshakes, this annual Farmer/Buyer Mixer kicked off for the third year in a row, a speed- dating-styled undertaking to "the chosen spot of all this earth as far as Nature is concerned." And with year-round growing and fer- tile soils, in the century following Burbank's arrival, this region spilled over with a bounty of apples, eggs, pears, wheat, prunes, milk -- enough to feed the local community and still have enough left over to ship all across America. But this past December, in that bustling grange hall in Sebastopol, all those agrarian speed-daters were in fact engaged in something that today is quite radical: bring- ing back the love. Because despite the recent proliferation of farmers markets, farm-to-table eateries and a love affair with the buz- zword "local" by marketers, Sonoma County residents rely more on imported food today than ever before. Where has the growmance increase local food purchasinggone? throughout the North Bay. With skyrocketing costs in land Most people think of Sonoma and housing, together with oner- County as a locavore's epicurean ous regulation and a deluge of Mecca, once deemed by the famed cheap imports from factory farms horticulturalist Luther Burbank as in the Central Valley or as far / COLLABORATION Caiti Hachmyer of Red Farm with Tom Adamian, sous chef at Woodfour Brewing Company PHOTO BY SAP~H BRADBURY away as Mexico and China, local agriculture has struggled to keep up. Value-added products such as wine, artisan cheese and now hard ciders have helped preserve much of the county's remaining farm- land. According to last yea s crop report, well over 60,000 acres are currently planted to winegrapes. But divvy up the 600 acres of veg- etables among the half-million peo- ple who call Sonoma County home and they'd each get just a seven- foot-by-seven-foot parcel. Doing her part to offset that ratio is Caiti Hachmyer of Red H Farm. Just south of Sebastopol, Hachmyer represents a new gener- ation working to re-diversify the region's bounty. Young, small-scale and focused on ecological practices, Hachmyer arrived to December's Farmer/Buyer Mixer hoping to expand beyond just farmers mar- kets and CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture, a weekly subscription-based model). To do so, she knows that her success hinges not just on market forces but upon relationships, too. "I'm a pretty small-scale grower," she says, "so I need to find buyers who can work with me, who can be flex- ible or even sit down and help coor- dinate my planting schedule with their menu." The pace of agriculture can't always keep up with the pace of the food industry. And food trends, says Hachmyer, sometimes change faster than she can farm. "Padron peppers might be hot (no pun intended) one season, but by the time I plant, cultivate and harvest them, suddenly chefs are asking for shishitos. Knowing what to grow is kind of a chicken or egg challenge, which is why the (Farmer/Buyer Mixer) event was so valuable. I got a better idea of what to grow, when, how much and at what price." Held in winter, the event's aim wasn't simply to match existing supply to existing demand, but to cultivate long-term relationships in preparation for the coming sea- son, partnerships like those that Hachmyer has forged with chef Tom Adamian of Woodfour Brewing Company. "Of course going through some big distributor would be easier," says Adamian. "And that'd be free, if I didn't care where my ingredi- ents came from. But for me, it's worth the extra effort to know who's growing your food, how they farm, their philosophy." Adamian doesn't simply know his farmer by name, but visits Hachmyer's land, learns about her no-till soil techniques and why that matters. "The ability to see something growing and serve it that same evening is incredible. Most people come to the restaurant Though lately we're getting folks calling in ahead to ask how we source, where the food comes from. It's nice validation for the extra effort we take -- though I'd proba- bly do it one way or another," he says. Those phone calls are part of a growing trend. One in three people surveyed by a national market research firm recently claimed they'd pay up to 25 percent more for local food. But while food busi- nesses like Safeway have respond- ed to a disparity between demand for and supply of local food by stretching their definition of "local" to encompass a sometimes 800- mile radius, the businesses that arrived to last December's Farmer/Buyer Mixer are choosing and just want good food and to to be more proactive. By forging enjoy a beer. And that's fine. See Growmance page 4