Growing Farms and Farmers
By Tim Tesconi, Executive Director
Published April 1, 2015
Lynn Steindorf Esposti of Healdsburg knows the pitfalls of farming but says the urge to farm is in her DNA, compelling her to grow crops and livestock against all the odds. After all, Lynn’s ancestors have farmed for at least eight generations in Europe, California and here in Sonoma County where she grew up raising hogs as a 4-H Club member in Healdsburg. Farming is something she yearns to do too, even if it’s on a part-time basis, working around her full-time job as a business professional.
But like many beginning farmers today, Lynn and her life and business partner Thor Bodtker do not own land, relying on scarce leased land to grow the grain, Hopi blue corn, sheep, pigs, rabbits and chickens that comprise their Stone Village Farms.
Lynn and Thor are not alone. There are dozens of other beginning and aspiring farmers seeking land to lease for food crops. The County of Sonoma along with many organizations including Sonoma County Farm Bureau are joining together to link beginning and aspiring farmers with landowners who may be interested in leasing their property. It’s all part of a concerted effort to utilize both public and private land to grow more local food, keeping the promise of Sonoma County’s reputation as California’s premier wine and food region.
More than a dozen groups are hosting a workshop called “Growing Our Farms” to explore the challenges – and rewards – of connecting farmers like Lynn and Thor with landowners looking for added income or, perhaps, just the desire to see their land producing crops or livestock. The free workshop is 1 to 5:30 p.m. April 23 at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds’ Showcase Café.
“I believe if property owners realized the huge influx of young farmers looking for land to farm there would be more lease agreements and more food being grown here,” said Lynn, who leases multiple private and public properties in Windsor, Santa Rosa and Sebastopol for her farming operations. “These are very exciting times for food and farming. There is a food revolution going on. People want locally grown, healthy food and there are young farmers who want to grow it, not to make a financial killing, but to farm the land in a healthy and sustainable way that respects the environment.”
The workshop is being held under the umbrella of the Sonoma County Food System Alliance’s Ag and Natural Resources Team and supported by many agriculture, health and farmland preservation groups and agencies. Speakers at the workshop will include those with expertise in linking land and farmers as well landowners and tenant farmers who have developed successful business relationships.
Lynn believes the workshop will create public awareness about getting more farmers on the ground to produce grains, fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy products and eggs that will be sold at farm stands and farmers markets around the county. It’s all closely tied to the consumer movement to buy and eat locally grown food, curbing the tide on imported farm products.
“I don’t want to entrust our food supply to China,” said Lynn. “I want my food raised here so I know that it was produced and processed in a sustainable way.”
Certainly, words to live and farm by in Sonoma County.