Young farmer has staked her agricultural future at the historic Taber Ranch on Canfield Road
By Tim Tesconi
It’s a long way from her native Georgia but farmer Rachel Boring is thriving in the hills of Sebastopol where she raises raspberries, chickens and cows while methodically restoring the historic ranch that will be her “forever farm.”
Call it fate, serendipity or divine intervention, Rachel believes it was some force that brought her to this 89- acre farmstead on Canfield Road, south of Sebastopol in the rolling hills where cattle and sheep have grazed for centuries. She has staked her farming future on land that was the old Taber Ranch, owned by the Taber family for nearly 170 years. Generations of the Taber family, dating back to 1850, milked cows and grew hay on the property that in its heyday showed the pride and love the Tabers had for their land.
“It feels like this is the place where I am supposed to be. Forever. I love it and can’t imagine being or doing anything else. I wake up every day loving my life and eager to get on the land to plant, grow and make things happen,” said Rachel, 33, a gracious young woman who is clearly focused as she immerses herself in the agricultural community of Sonoma County. She is a member of Sonoma County Farm Bureau and Sonoma County Farm Trials. She is actively involved in the Sonoma-Marin Young Farmers & Rancher. A handful of friends from the Young Farmers & Ranchers get together every Thursday in Sebastopol for social interaction and to share information about their farming endeavors. She enters her jams and fabric art in the Sonoma County Fair, taking pride in the ribbons she wins for her entries.
“It’s crucial for me to be a member and involved in these agricultural organizations and to have a place where we all come together to share information so we know what’s going on in the farm and ranch community,” she said.
She calls her property, The Boring Farm, because that’s her family name. But life on this farm is far from boring as hordes of happy customers pick berries on Saturdays and on-going improvements keep tractors humming and hammers pounding.
“I just want to make this land the best it can be,” she said.
Rachel leases 53 acres of her property to Tristan Benson, one of her fellow members of Young Farmers & Ranchers. Benson, another industrious young farmer, grows specialty grains on the property. The grains are used to produce flour for bread and to make whiskey and bourbon at Sonoma County distilleries.
Rachel’s life in Sebastopol is a world apart from the privileged life she was living in Dalton, Georgia where her family has deep roots and social standing. Family members in Dalton are prominent business owners and cattle ranchers who are firmly entrenched in the community that has been their home for generations.
Rachel had studied contemporary ballet at the University of Alabama and was destined for a career in dance when injures abruptly dashed those plans. She left Georgia looking for change and change she found when she landed in Sonoma County to learn organic farming.
Rachel was working at the Duckworth blueberry farm on Canfield Road when the Taber property, a half mile down the road, came up for sale. The Tabers got out of the dairy business decades ago and the house and property has been leased to others. Everything had fallen into disrepair including the stately two-story farm house, built in 1850, that begged for an uplift and makeover.
Rachel made an offer on the property and wrote a three-page letter to family matriarch Julie Taber who was selling the ranch. Rachel explained her vision to restore the house and make the land healthy once again. She wrote about the deep connection she felt for this piece of land and her dream to create a working farm that she hoped would be in her family for generations, like it had been for the Tabers.
Mrs. Taber told her real estate broker that she wanted Rachel to have the property, rejecting all other offers on the ranch. Rachel became the second owner of the property since 1850.
Now, Rachel has made it her mission to restore and renovate the house, land and outbuildings that needed some loving care. The old manure pits were excavated and the rich sediment was spread on the land to enhance the soil’s tilth and fertility. One of the pits became a beautiful pond, fed by springs and winter runoff, that has brought frogs, otters and other wildlife back to the ranch, much to Rachel’s delight.
She spent a year and half bringing the classic old white farm house back to life. It included cleaning the crawl space under the house, replacing the original windows and upgrading the electrical system. The cosmetic improvements honored the home’s original nineteenth century character including refurbishing the green shutters with the letter “T” in recognition of the prideful owners.
“Restoring the historic Taber property has been my greatest joy over the last six years,” said Rachel.
To produce income on the farm, Rachel planted 4.5 acres of red raspberries. It was an easy decision.
“Raspberries are my favorite fruit,” said Rachel, “And the soil and water Ph and cool microclimate on this property are perfect for raspberries. I didn’t want to fight the land to produce a crop, I wanted a crop that would thrive best in what the land and climate provided.’
The beautiful raspberries, bursting with natural flavor, attest to their favorable growing conditions and the care that Rachel provides in pruning, trellising and feeding with organic composts. The Boring Farm website says “Our raspberries are hand grown with an abundance of love (and without sprays, additives or fertilizers.) They’re the “pop ’em right in your mouth” no wash needed type of fruit.”
Rachel said it’s so rewarding to welcome people from the local community and throughout the Bay Area to enjoy the fruits of her labor while they experience the beautiful land that has become her life’s work. On a recent Saturday, dozens of families had traveled over the backroads of western Sonoma County to get to the farm. At the ranch entrance, visitors are welcomed by Rachel’s 1972 MG Midget sports car that she bought after moving to California. The red sports car serves as a navigational signpost for the berry pickers as they find their way to the Boring Farm.
On this Saturday, families traipsed the acres of raspberry bushes to glean fruit that is ripe and delicious, selecting from the five varieties of raspberries that Rachel planted after extensive research. Some of the gleaners had planned to make jam for the winter but most just wanted to taste berries fresh off the bush.
Elisabeth Pinkerton of Santa Rosa brought her 18-month-old son Lucas, dressed in sturdy overalls, to pick berries and be outside on a working farm. It was a special moment.
“I really want Lucas to know what Sonoma County has to offer in terms of fresh healthy food grown by people like Rachel who care about their land. This is just wonderful for families,” Elisabeth said.
Lucas liked the four cows that Rachel keeps in a pasture near the berry patch, providing the chance for visitors to get up close to some very gentle bovines. Her pride and joy is a Guernsey cow named “Ruthie,” purchased six years ago as a one-month old calf from a breeder near Seattle. Rachel and Ruthie bonded during the 16-hour trip home to Sebastopol in a rented mini-van.
That kind of grit and can-do-spirit defines Rachel, who as a single woman holds her own in dealing with the contractors and other service providers in the continuing renovation and rehabilitation of the ranch.
Rachel also dedicates her time, energy and land to nurturing young people interested in organic farming. Each year between May and October, she hosts four to five young people, between 20 and 30 years old, through the World Wide Opportunity in Organic Farming or WWOOF.
In addition to having the students work in the berry patch, she teaches skills like weaving, bread baking, jam making and carpentry. The students live dormitory style in the old milk barn built by the Tabers.
The program is based on the learning method of “See one, do one, teach one” in which students are shown what to do, then do it themselves and finally teach another student how to do it.
Rachel said it worked for her when she was learning organic farming and as she continues to hone her skills as a farmer, land owner and mentor to aspiring farmers.
“It is all about forging my way forward on my forever farm and creating space for my community to enjoy it along with me,” said Rachel.