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Meet the new crop of urbanites-turned-farmers in Sonoma County


People who endure the stress of city life may dream of a life in the country, but not many take the leap.

Two and half years ago, Lori and Chris Melançon did.

The couple had initially purchased 12 acres of dormant pasture in Sonoma County, as an investment. Then it “called to them” with visions of farming vegetables and raising pigs, goats, and chickens. So they left lucrative jobs in San Francisco, Chris at a startup and Lori at a cancer-focused pharmaceutical company, and started LOLA Sonoma Farms.

“The entrepreneurial thing for us (in the city) started to fade,” said Chris. “In the early stage of this venture we realized the potential on the land and the entrepreneurial spark emerged again. We had the opportunity to take a small part of Sonoma County and show people — just as those who are interested in wine tasting — what it takes to grow sustainable, organic food. To have a lasting impact. And it doesn’t hurt that we’re outside in the fresh air and sunshine.”


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A growing number of young Americans are leaving desk jobs to farm 

Liz Whitehurst dabbled in several careers before she ended up here, crating fistfuls of fresh-cut arugula in the early-November chill.
The hours were better at her nonprofit jobs. So were the benefits. But two years ago, the 32-year-old Whitehurst — who graduated from a liberal arts college and grew up in the Chicago suburbs — abandoned Washington for this three-acre farm in Upper Marlboro, Md.
She joined a growing movement of highly educated, ex-urban, first-time farmers who are capitalizing on booming consumer demand for local and sustainable foods and who, experts say, could have a broad impact on the food system.
Read more at: A growing number of young Americans are leaving desk jobs to farm – The Washington Post

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Sustainable LivingTags , , , ,

Op-Ed: Home on the grange not so peaceful

The article, “Sonoma County’s Granges status in question” on Oct. 2 left out the character and work of the California State Grange, now called CSG, after a court order obtained by the National Grange made it unable to use the common word grange.
Living at Oasis Community Farm just outside Petaluma, we’ve learned farming is tough and isolating. To keep small and organic farms alive and kicking takes support, and our grange village has stretched to Sacramento and San Luis Obispo and beyond.

But now the National Grange has disavowed the California State Grange with a court ruling that the CSG can no longer call itself a grange and must relinquish properties.

We’ve learned while attempting to label genetically modified foods and such that Monsanto Corp. and others have so invaded our land as to threaten the integrity of organic farming altogether. So we stand against that. The National Grange does not.

The Petaluma Grange has been a great alternative to doing nothing about climate change and associated tragedies. We’ve hosted speakers from Marin Slow Food and Rafael Gardens at Rudolf Steiner Institute, from Transition US and California Farm Link. We’ve learned how to build soil and build a farm business and have carpooled to demonstrations to ban fracking because we have a right to know what is injected into our water supply. We should label GMOs because we have a right to know what is in our food. We should support legalization of industrial hemp crops, which can become car parts, building material or clothing that lasts three times longer than cotton. This is all good stuff we can help do.

We were instrumental in getting the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors to withdraw its attempt to raise farmers market fees that would have sent more farmers home.

The CSG has worked hard on these issues and other causes focused on regenerating a healthier, happier world to pass along to our children and grandchildren. We’ve addressed these onslaughts by working with a lobbyist and state legislators to get industrial hemp legalized, to label GMOs and to help make regulations around small farming workable for small farmers.

But with the latest challenge to the integrity of the CSG by the National Grange, much of this may be lost; I sincerely hope not.

I’ve never heard of the National Grange backing any of the causes we hold dear. Yes, it has the fraternal organization format that originally helped small farmers, but this current National Grange seems focused only on shutting down the good works of CSG.

Read more at: Close to Home: Home on the grange not | The Press Democrat