Tales of Taste Marin (2)

“It is important that younger folks get involved in growing food, and particularly in growing food organically,” says Amy Ridout, Farm Coordinator at the Indian Valley Organic Farm and Garden.

Ninety-four percent of U.S. farm operators are 35 years old and older with the median age at 58.

Amy goes on to state that the harmful chemicals used on growing crops cause illnesses to people consuming those foods as well as environmental degradation to other living organisms.

“It is a wasteful use of resources with the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides,” she says.

On a warm Autumn day visit to the certified organic farm on the campus of the College of Marin in Novato, Amy explains to Taste Marin how a teaching farm can benefit local communities.

“We can be good stewards of the Earth by teaching others to teach their communities how to grow food and eat food in a healthy and sustainable way,” says Amy.

“What we are doing is offering this community in Marin County an opportunity to learn the best practices of sustainable agriculture and the opportunity to get some of the tools they would need to go on and start a farm of their own, or work for a community garden, and they would learn the importance of sourcing food organically,” she says.

Amy has had a “real love affair” for the environment since her childhood. In college she worked on projects to restore watersheds for endangered fish and worked with farmers to improve agricultural practices.

Her career path has been very clear … community and agriculture.

She has:

  • trained students about agricultural and sustainable food systems as an instructor at the University of Santa Cruz.
  • started an educational farm in Petaluma that grew sustainable food for low-income families.
  • worked as a farm production manager.
  • taught Kindergarten through 5th grade students nutrition and garden education as an Elementary School teacher.

Amy’s duties at the Indian Valley Organic Farm and Garden include creating a sustainable farm economically, environmentally and programmatically.

“We grow over 400 different varieties of crops,” Amy says.

The 5.8 acre certified organic farm is a partnership between the College of Marin, the University of California Cooperative Extension, the Conservation Corps North Bay and the Cultural Conservancy.

Amy goes on to point out that the farm has annuals, perennials, vegetables, herbs, a fruit tree orchard and olive trees, “We do olive oil pressing in November,” she says.

The Miwok and Pomo Indians grew food for their families in the present space the farm now resides.

The Federation Indians of Graton Rancheria blessed the land when the farm started in 2006.

The Indian Valley Organic Farm and Garden has dedicated space for growing Native American crops, for example, Iroquois white corn, Hopi blue dye sunflower, quinoa, bear beans and blue squash.

Lauren Valentino, a College of Marin student who works at the farm, talks about the farm’s herb and tea garden.

“In this garden we grow a lot of medicinal teas and culinary herbs; starting with sage, rosemary, oregano, thyme and tarragon. In the tea section, we have lemon verbena, anise hyssop, lemon balm, chocolate mint and pineapple sage … a wonderful variety of herbs and teas.”

Lauren points out different sections of the farm and how the crops benefit, “We have a bee garden, hoop houses, green houses and compost piles.”

The Indian Valley Organic Farm and Garden grows cabbages, potatoes, beet, garlic, pomegranate, strawberries, kale, carrots, apricots, peaches, figs, blueberries and much, much more.

Fourteen percent of U.S. farm operators are women.

How you can help the Indian Valley Organic Farm and Garden:

  • Volunteer – Days and times: (415) 720-2051
  • Donate – Specific donation information, contact Amy: (415) 720-2051
  • Donation Campaign – Benefits the Indian Valley Organic Farm and Garden, Marin Museum of Contemporary Art and Whole Kids Foundation. Shop at the Whole Foods Novato store, bring your own bag and say “donate”  when asked about your ten cent credit. This donation campaign ends in September.
  • Farm Stand – Wednesdays and Saturdays: 10:00am – 3:00pm
  • CSA – Community Supported Agriculture subscriptions for individuals, restaurants and grocery stores.
  • Plant Sale – Twice annually during the Spring and Fall
  • Wish List – The farm needs 5-gallon buckets, chairs, hoses, lumber; contact Amy for more information: (415) 720-2051.

Amy concludes her conversation with a statement about the mission of the Indian Valley Organic Farm and Garden agricultural-based education, “We are growing future farmers,” she says.