It could easily be called the Institution of Organic & Sustainable Farming & Gardening, a revered center of learning that upholds an environmental ethic while helping growers produce crops the natural way.
But, of course, everyone knows it as Harmony Farm Supply & Nursery, the iconic farm and garden business on a leafy campus along Gravenstein Highway North in Sebastopol. As one of the pioneers in organic and sustainable agriculture, Harmony Farm Supply has been promoting cutting-edge, earth friendly practices long before the those values became part of the public dialogue. And Harmony Farm Supply is growing as strong as the sustainable farming movement itself.
In many ways, this earthy emporium has nurtured the movement by offering the inspiration, information and supplies farmers and gardeners need to be organic and sustainable. It’s all done with passion, commitment and an abiding love of the land that Mother Nature has provided. “Harmony Farm Supply really is an institution, a part of a community that has grown tremendously over the last thirty-five years. It’s a community of farmers and gardeners who are concerned about what they are putting in their soil and on their plants and, ultimately, in the food they grow and eat,” said Rick Williams, who with his wife Leah Taylor owns and operates Harmony Farm Supply & Nursery. Rick and Leah said Harmony would not be the respected institution it is today without the dedicated employees, past and present, who embrace the conservation and environmental stewardship that is at the heart of Harmony.
Harmony Farm Supply & Nursery’s leadership in conservation and environmental awareness have earned it Sonoma County Farm Bureau’s 2015 Luther Burbank Conservation Award. The award recognizes Harmony’s role in cultivating the next generation of land stewards and fostering a community-wide ethic in preserving natural resources, like water and soil.
Harmony Farm Supply & Nursery will be honored at Farm Bureau’s Love of the Land celebration on July 16 at Richard’s Grove and Saralee’s Vineyard near Windsor. Also being honored are Paul Martin, an agriculture leader from Petaluma who is the recipient of the Sonoma County Farm Bureau Hall of Fame Award, and the Sangiacomo Family of Sonoma, named the Farm Family of the Year.
Williams and Taylor said they are honored to receive the Luther Burbank Conservation Award on behalf of Harmony because it recognizes the important work their employees do every day helping farmers, gardeners and landowners to conserve natural resources and preserve working farmscapes. That is accomplished by supporting organic farming, developing water-saving irrigation and solar power systems for agriculture, residential and commercial businesses. Harmony is also leading the way in rain-water harvesting systems for farms, homes and businesses and offering food producing plants and drought tolerate native plants to replace thirsty lawns in urban landscapes.
Williams and Taylor became, as they put it, the “new stewards” of Harmony Farm Supply in July of 2007. They purchased the business from founders Kate Burroughs and David Henry who started Harmony Farm Supply in 1980, a time when back-to-the landers were settling in Sonoma County. These new age farmers were committed to farming without chemicals and in ways that sustained the land for the generations to come.
During their 30 years as the owners of Harmony Farm Supply, Burroughs and Henry built their business into a thriving organic farm and garden emporium, which today attracts customers from a hundred mile radius and beyond. Harmony Farm Supply moved to its present site in 1990, adding a nursery and expanded retail store where farmers and gardeners can find hundreds of items that are tools of the organic trade.
Increasingly, said Williams, mainstream America is seeking more natural approaches to thwart pests and diseases and restore soil fertility. Williams said previous generations farmed and gardened without the knowledge or awareness of the potential harm of their choices, but that has changed. He said that today more and more people are concerned about their impact on the environment and human health so they are making choices that are more harmonious with nature.
“There’s a social consciousness that has developed about conserving resources and protecting the earth. Harmony continues to be the place to go for advice, support and education about growing crops in an organic and sustainable way and living in a way that has less environmental impact,” said Williams. Before Harmony, Williams held positions at Earthbound Compost in Penngrove and before that as vice president of operations for Healthy Planet Products in Petaluma. Williams said one of the primary attractions for customers is Harmony Farms Supply’s knowledgeable staff with expertise in areas like irrigation, solar power, integrated pest management, organic pest control and soil health. He said it all starts with the soil.
“Our focus is the soil,” he said, “Soil is the heart of it all when it comes to organic and sustainable farming. Healthy soil healthy plants.” Many of the employees have been with Harmony for years, upholding the company’s mission of nurturing, educating and providing services and supplies to the growing numbers embracing organic and sustainable production. Key employees include Angie Albini, Gary Portal, Patty Hamilton, Sharon Bushgen, Phil Morrison, Toña Marta-Marquez, and Chad Griffith. Williams and Taylor’s son, Taylor Williams, 21, works at the family business as the accounts payable specialist.
Williams said as an institution, Harmony Farm Supply & Nursery is committed to spreading the word about organic and sustainable practices and teaching young people there are more sustainable ways to grow food. Harmony supports community service programs that foster sustainable agriculture and works with groups like the School Garden Network and School Garden Mentor Program.
“Our objective as an institution is to have a school garden in every school in Sonoma County,” said Williams.