Bee Friendly: Singing Frogs Farm Your Local No-Till CSA
In Sebastopol, the Kaiser family strives to improve soil quality and provide fresh local produce to Sonoma County Residents
By Rachel LaFranchi, Farm News Editor, Photo by Rachel LaFranchi
Published April 1, 2015
It’s clear Paul and Elizabeth Kaiser love what they do. Paul pulls weeds as he talks about his no-till farming practices and his wife Elizabeth wipes dirt off their five-year-old daughter Anna’s face. Their son, Lucas, 7, produces a plant to show his family before running back toward the row crops.
One green and yellow John Deere sits in the corner of their property. At Singing Frogs Farm, this tractor is used to move compost from one spot to another but never in a manner that would harm their soil.
The Kaisers cultivate two and a half acres on their eight acre farm called Singing Frogs Farm with the help of their six employees. The Kaisers pride themselves on running a no-till farm using no sprays for pests, weed control or other issues. The Kaisers said that their soil management practices have given them better soil quality, increased crop health and decreased erosion and soil loss.
“There are two ways tilling kills the soil,” Paul said, “it volatizes nutrients we need for soil structure and plant growth creating greenhouse gasses, and, literally, it kills the soil organisms.”
Since they’ve been at Singing Frogs Farm, the Kaisers have increased their soil organic matter from 2.6% when they bought the farm to more than 7%.
The Kaisers rely on their natural ecosystem (including perennial hedgerows of Sonoma County native pollinator friendly plants) to provide crop protection against insects and other problems that conventional farmers combat with pesticides and tilling. “We definitely have pest issues,” said Elizabeth, “but you just have to be smart, intensive, and watch what you’re doing. It’s all about knowing what’s going on.”
“Even the animals have work at Singing Frogs Farm. The barn cats catch mice and gophers and they have domesticated ducks to take care of invasive pond weeds,” said Elizabeth. The Kaisers also have chickens and four Soay sheep. Guests are greeted by the friendly farm dog, Wenge, and can see Charlie the Llama and his companion Mocha the Goat.
Although the Kaisers have focused their business around vegetable production, Elizabeth says “animals are important to have around.”
The property is named after the seven ponds full of frogs. Paul loves the frogs and said they are indicative of the ecological focus. Like a canary in a coal mine, the frogs let them know their farm is healthy and safe.
Singing Frogs Farm sells their produce to the public in two forms. They can be found at three to four different farmers’ markets each week including the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers’ Market at the Well Fargo Center, Sebastopol Farm Market, Occidental Bohemian Farmers’ Market and the West End Farmers’ Market in Santa Rosa.
Singing Frogs Farm also sells their produce to local community members as a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). The Kaisers have between 120 and 150 members who receive produce year round. While there are approximately 25 other CSAs in Sonoma County, only three to four others offer year round produce like Singing Frogs Farm. Members can expect to receive a box once a week with 7 to 9 fresh items during the peak season and a box every other week in the off season.
With a CSA membership, members of the community know where their food is coming from and share the risks and benefits of crop production. The members can arrange a tour and see their food growing as well as attending member only events such as a blueberry harvest and a candy-free Easter egg hunt.
What might be surprising to many is that Singing Frogs Farm is not certified organic. But with all their sales direct to customers, the Kaisers said they don’t need the certification and their customers still know their products are being produced in the best way possible. Both Paul and Elizabeth agree “organic is awesome” even though they aren’t certified.
While Singing Frogs Farm isn’t certified organic, they are a Certified Bee Friendly Farm. “Even some organic farms can’t be certified bee friendly,” said Paul. The many rows of Sonoma County native plants is one thing making their farm pollinator friendly.
In addition to finding Paul and Elizabeth in their fields, Lucas and Anna are always around the farm. Anna was recently asked if she wanted to be a farmer when she grew up, and she proudly announced that she already was one. Lucas asked his parents when he can start attending conferences with them, excited to be part of the agriculture industry at a young age.
The Kaisers know there are many other farming methods that work for other people. “By no means do we want to say our system is the only way to go,” said Elizabeth. But in the future, they hope there will be an increase in no-till agriculture, said Paul.
“We want to encourage other farmers to innovate and take risks to find out new ways of doing things,” said Paul, “there are many answers out there and we need to find them.”
Find more information about Singing Frogs Farm at www.singingfrogsfarm.com.