Front Porch Farms
An interview by Sayla Elsbree-Kraft [CAFF] with new CAFF member Patrick Rhodes [P], manager at Front Porch Farms in Healdsburg, California.
CAFF: Tell me about your farm and how it got started.
P: Front Porch Farms is in Healdsburg, California. The owners, Peter and Mimi Buckley, started the farm six years ago with just grains, and they added the orchard and flower gardens later. Peter was previously the CEO of Esprit Europe. He sold that business and started Greenswood School and Mill Valley and helped found the David Brower Center in Berkeley, which is a center that houses non-profit staff members in a shared space. Peter saw starting the farm as an opportunity to “put his money where his mouth was” and the culmination of his involvement with environmental nonprofits and education. The farm was originally planted entirely with grape vines, but when the owners bought the property they cleared most of the vines and wanted to create a model of sustainable farming. We still grow some grapes to create three different blends of CCOF certified organic wine. Zoe Hisner is currently the flower manager, and Johnny Wilson oversees the whole farm.
CAFF How big is the farm and what do you grow?
P: We have 112 acres: 12 in grapes, 10-15 in vegetables, 3-4 in flowers, 2-3 are orchards of peaches, plums, and blackberries, and the rest is in grains. We also have less than 2 acres of Italian Bridal polenta corn milled with germ and bran. We sell the polenta to Shed in Healdsburg, at the farmers market, and the rest to restaurants in San Francisco.
CAFF: What is your position at Front Porch Farms?
P: I am the Harvest and Sales Manager – I work with Johnny to plan the upcoming season and I do a walk-through to coordinate harvest.
CAFF: How did you come into your management position at the farm?
P: After completing the apprenticeship program I met Zoe, the flower manager at Front Porch Farms, on a camping trip and she invited him to come se the farm in the winter. Zoe was working alone on the farm and offered me a paid internship. From March to July that year, my position went from a paid internship to a full time management position. My work in the art business doing shipping, packing and customer service helped out so much.
CAFF: How much experience did you have with farming at the time you started?
P: Before this I was living in San Francisco, working in art museums moving art around the world. But every chance I got, I was volunteering at farms. I talked with a lot of people who had gone through the farmer apprenticeship program at UC Santa Cruz. Eventually, I decided to quit my job and do the program.
CAFF: What is your favorite part about farming?
P: My favorite part of the farming is the place and the community. The landscape at the farm is beautiful and I am grateful to fully experience the seasons. And when I do deliveries I get to take product to chefs, which feels like sharing the gift and passion of a product that is both beautiful and nutritious – continuing the excitement for this work.
CAFF: What is your favorite food, if you have one?
P: Tomatoes are my favorite food. I like to walk down the aisle and eat them right off the plant – we have amazing tomatoes.
CAFF: Do you have any events at your farm?
P: We always do tours by appointment and we host a Fall Wine Pick Up Party & Harvest Market, rain or shine.
For more information about Front Porch Farms, visit their website.