The Story of Bounty Farm Produce – from the Petaluma Bounty Blog

Read on for the story of Bounty Farm-grown produce and where it goes, from Petaluma Bounty Farm Manager Lennie Larkin & the Petaluma Bounty blog.

The Story of Bounty Farm Produce

From Farmer Lennie:

It’s mid-August and for us at the Bounty farm, that means the fields are overflowing with more varieties of food crops than most of us can even name offhand, that worker bees such as volunteers, interns and the Youth Corps were out there all summer carefully tending to them daily. That means, hundreds of pounds of picked, sorted, washed and packaged foods are heading off the farm each week to feed our community.

Some of the crops we’re most excited about this year are over 10 varieties of sweet peppers (coming soon!), 10 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, green and purple bush beans, lots and lots of spring arugula and peas, refreshing Armenian and lemon cucumbers, basil, more summer squash than anyone can eat, Asian greens, flowers galore, and gorgeous red Russian and lacinato kale.

I wanted to take a few minutes to share some behind-the-scenes details on just where this food is going! Our core mission here at Petaluma Bounty is to strengthen our local food system by growing food with community members for local distribution to low-income families, and working towards that mission means that we’re always actively seeking ways to get our produce to all members of this community – low-income families and individuals in particular. This is where our two-tier price structure comes into play. While I’m at the farm planning production and education, Suzi is plugging away at fundraising and grant writing in order to help fund our reduced prices. With these grants, donations, sponsors and community support, we’re able to offer this lower price option at many of our outlets (see below). This means that customers who qualify (based on self-identification of being in a certain income bracket) are able to purchase our produce at 50 – 75% of retail price.

Planning production at the farm is always a tricky process. We want to grow a large variety of food, but we also want to specialize in crops that we know our customers love. So there’s a balance that I’m always trying to strike in making sure to have a steady and consistent supply of popular items (carrots, lemon cucumbers, cilantro, strawberries), while not neglecting the other crops. I’m also always asking myself how much of a role we should be playing in introducing new foods to people. If someone has never tried collard greens – I would love to make sure they get their hands on some. But I don’t want to force it down their throat week after week. So my approach is to always offer a large variety, and to hope that the list of major players expands each year.

The collective fruits of our efforts results in over 12,000 lbs of sustainably grown fresh produce, over half of which supports community efforts.

Here’s a snapshot of the places we bring our produce:

  • The Bounty Farm Stand Tuesdays from 4pm – 6pm
    Open to all! Come enjoy the farm, walk around, pick from our pick-your-own garden, and visit the farm stand. Located at the farm, 55 Shasta Ave. off of Petaluma Blvd. North. Two-Tier Prices based on economic need. Accept credit cards, cash, WIC, CalFresh (aka EBT/foodstamps).
  • P.L.A.Y. (Petaluma Loves Active Youth)
    This program is run in partnership with Petaluma Health Center and is available to their patients with existing or developing diet-related conditions. All participants are low-income families with children at risk for obesity. Bounty provides big bags of seasonal produce, or ‘CSA Shares’, to families through the Petaluma Health Center.
  • The ‘Bounty Farmacy’ at the Petaluma Health Center
    Open to the Petaluma Health Center staff and patients, two-tier prices based on economic need.Accept credit cards, cash, WIC, CalFresh (aka EBT/foodstamps), Produce Rx.
  • Farmer’s Market at Walnut Park Saturdays from 2 – 5:30pm
    May through November. Open to the public. Retail Prices only, we accept cash, WIC, CalFresh (aka EBT/foodstamps).
  • Local Restaurants
    Please make sure to share our appreciation with the following restaurants when you go to eat heir delicious food! Wishbone, Water St Bistro, Petaluma Pie Company, Saltwater Oyster Depot.

We’ve seen a huge increase in sales to the outlets where we are able to offer a two-tier price structure, namely at the Petaluma Health Center, and here at our Tuesday farm stand at the Bounty. After three years of managing this farm and trying to tie our volunteer activities to our production activities to our mission of getting food out to low-income families, the fact that we’re finally moving the majority of our produce through these outlets means that, for me, we’re on the right track.

For example, let’s think about the lifespan of a cucumber grown and harvested at the Bounty farm. Volunteers sowed the seed back in early spring, in donated soil mix packed into donated seed trays. The tray then got placed in our greenhouse, built by skilled hands of Bounty volunteers a few years back. Over the next six weeks the tray was watered and cared for Bounty staff and volunteers, oohed and ahhed over by tour groups passing through the greenhouse.

It then gets planted in the soil by volunteers, interns from SRJC and/or Sonoma State, or a school group coming to the farm to learn about farming and food security and to get their hands in the soil. There it sits, growing in the soil, irrigated a couple of times a week by Bounty staff and interns, maybe lightly stepped on by frolicking kids out here to volunteer, weeded around by our summer youth corps (a job training program), and then, finally harvested.

Harvest days – Tuesdays, Thursday, and Saturday mornings – are good times around here. A group of anywhere from 5 to 20 of us – staff, interns, volunteers, and youth corps members- gather around a harvest board and team up to go out into the fields and focus on proper harvesting techniques for a given vegetable. So the cucumber gets picked, brought into our wash station, packed and weighed, and there it waits to head out to one of our outlets.

So many hands are involved in each step of the process – this is what ‘growing food in community’ really means to us. I’m so happy that our current initiatives are gaining traction, and that this one little cucumber was able to travel through so many hands before reaching its final destination.

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