Foggy River Farm, a CSA in the Russian River Valley, is the culmination of one couple’s dream to be self-sustaining and share what it’s like to grow food with other people.
Emmett and Lynda Hopkins are the owners of Foggy River Farm, a CSA (community supported agriculture) they have been building since 2009.
Emmett grew up on the Russian River Valley property outside of Healdsburg which has been in his family for three generations. His grandparents purchased the property in 1954 when it was primarily used for growing hops. Emmett’s father, Bob, grew up picking prunes and pears and began planting vineyards on the property in the 70’s.
Emmett met Lynda at Stanford where they were both studying in the school’s Earth Systems program focusing on environmental issues. After graduating, the couple moved to Washington and travelled around New Zealand working on farms before returning to Sonoma County in 2008.
Back on the farm where Emmett grew up, the couple began to plant vegetables on a piece of the family property where vines had been pulled out. They began by selling their crops at the farmers market, and started a CSA their second year. During their first year as a CSA, they signed up 20 members.
Now in their eighth year, Lynda and Emmett have more than 80 families in the CSA who pick up fresh produce at the farm every Wednesday.
The once small patch of vegetables between rows of vineyard has morphed into 15 certified organic acres, four to five of which are planted with mixed vegetables at any one time. The remaining 10 acres are fallow or growing beans or grains including wheat and barley.
Lynda and Emmett structured their CSA to resemble a farmer’s market as they recognize most of their customers are people who also enjoy shopping at farmers markets. Instead of the traditional approach to a CSA where members take home a prepackaged box of fresh produce each week, Foggy River Farm members are directed how much to take and can pick the individual pieces of produce.
Emmett said the set up allows people to come and go as they please but is also a social time for the members and famers to get to know each other.
In addition to the CSA, Foggy River Farm can also be found at the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market at the Luther Burbank Center, Sebastopol Farmers Market and Healdsburg Farmers Market.
While not a significant source of income, Foggy River Farm also sells to restaurants and through wholesale channels. The farm sells produce to Oliver’s Market in Windsor, SHED in Healdsburg and Backyard in Forestville.
Foggy River Farm is also a part of F.E.E.D. Sonoma, a program that connects local farmers with buyers in retail and commercial markets. Emmett said this allows them to get produce into Bay Area markets they wouldn’t be able to reach on their own.
While most of their sales are from vegetables and dry beans, Emmett and Lynda also raise livestock. Emmett said the livestock are something they raise for their family and their CSA members who enjoy being able to add eggs to their pickups. Currently, they have 30 chickens, down from the 70 they normally have each year.
They also have goats, a passion of Lynda’s. She raised Nigerian Dwarf Goats for five years, but switched to primarily raising Nubians which are easier to milk.
Lynda and Emmett said the decision to move back to the family property after school was always something they had thought about because the land had already been in the family for so long. In 2008, they were at a point where they had the opportunity to move home, and the fallow vineyard space gave them the opportunity to try something new without any pressure.
They had both always been interested in the local food movement and passionate about diversified agriculture.
One of the reasons which drew them to a vegetable farm with a diverse set of crops was they weren’t putting all their eggs in one basket. Planting vegetables, as opposed to more permanent crops such as vineyards, allows them to grow new crops and different varieties at every new planting season.
They were also both drawn to the idea of self-sufficiency; they like the idea of being able to grow everything they eat except the salt. Their passion for CSAs stemmed from this and their desire to be able to provide the community with locally grown food.
Lynda and Emmett’s future plans for the farm includes a bicycle grain mill where community members could come mill their own grains powered by a set of pedals. They also want to try making oil as part of their goal to be a full diet CSA producing everything they need not just the bare bones. They are interested in producing sunflower oil which has a quicker start up and lower costs than more common choices such as olives.
Lynda is passionate about making changes to the Sonoma County agriculture industry. She would like to see changes in regulations for small scale poultry processing as well as work on affirmative agriculture easements within the county. In addition to this, her experience as a small business owner has sparked her interest in how information provided by agricultural operations to the county and state could be streamlined.
Lynda’s experience on the farm has made her not afraid to put in hard work and afforded her the ability to work with all types of people. It has also given her an appreciation of the land and the desire to work hard to protect it.
From irrigation to delivering a stuck goat kid, Lynda’s experience with a diverse range of crops and livestock has given her the ability to relate to every type of farmer. Additionally, owning the farm has provided her with an extended range of experience from balancing a budget to dealing with unpredictable situations.
“I am passionate about the ability of local farming family to keep going. It’s important to fight for small farmers,” said Hopkins.
Lynda Hopkins is a candidate for 5th District Supervisor and has been endorsed by Sonoma County Farm Bureau.