Ever since Soil Born Farms took over the lease of the American River Ranch in 2007, we have slowly and steadily focused on restoring this amazing community treasure. Currently, public entrance improvements including a paved parking lot and a widened driveway for two-way vehicular access are making their way through the planning and permitting process. This effort has been going slowly as we navigate challenges brought on by COVID-19 and the many intricate development constraints of the site. Current timeline estimates show construction starting in summer 2021 and completing in early fall. These projects, along with a host of utility upgrades (gas, sewer, water and electric), will help us to better accommodate the visiting public and prepare for several needed renovations and new building projects. Project designs are underway for updating our existing farmhouse kitchen, construction of a new animal barn and a new farmstand/commercial kitchen space. Rest assured, we will continue to keep you updated monthly on how things are progressing and, as construction draws near, we will be sending out frequent notices to help visitors successfully navigate work crews.
Greenhouse Garden Shop Update: We have been working overtime to get our new Greenhouse Garden Shop & Fruit Tree Nursery completed at the American River Ranch before spring arrives. I am happy to report that our work is nearly complete! In total, the space includes renovations to our existing hoophouse, the addition of a brand new 24 x 36 ft. greenhouse, a new covered space for potting up plants and teaching, a completely rebuilt plant storage or hardening off area and new retail spaces for visitor shopping to pick up all of the essentials you will need for your gardens, including best practice tools, soil amendments, our best pick fruit trees and organically grown plant starts. This new community resource is guided by our mission to help all of you get outside, grow your own food, eat better, improve your health and steward the earth. You can find all of these items on our Online Marketplace with Saturday order pickup and be sure to check out our monthly online classes on seasonal gardening topics to help guide you through your growing adventures.
Thank you to the Clark Family for supporting this project. We are grateful to our dedicated volunteers Dennis and Yonnie Murphy and Kevin Clara for their expertise and help. Kudos to Kellan MacKay, Gary Hare and Shawn Harrison for planning and building the new spaces. And thanks to our local utility provider SMUD for selecting Soil Born Farms as a 2020–21 SHINE Award recipient to help make this project happen.
Since the beginning of the project in 2000, the act of growing organic seedlings for the farm and the community has been a constant. Each winter we pour through catalogs and secure our favorite varieties of vegetables, flowers, herbs and fruit. For many years we have longed to expand this area of our work, knowing that starting with healthy baby plants is critical to the success of any aspiring gardener or farmer. This year we have finally taken the leap and have been working hard to develop an expanded and improved greenhouse and garden supply center here at the American River Ranch. One component that we are currently working on is a redesigned hardening off area where plants are moved into when they leave the greenhouse. This space allows baby plants to acclimate to the outdoor world and protects them from squirrel and bird predation. Soon this space will be filled with a constant flow of beautiful and healthy plants that will hopefully make their way to your garden. We can’t wait for everyone to see and experience this and many more improvements that are being made at your community farm. Happy gardening!
Even though we are closed to the public right now, Soil Born Farms has been busy making improvements to the American River Ranch. First and foremost, with soil health at the core of our work we now have about 80% of the production fields in cover crops for the winter using our new seed drill. Oh, what a difference this tool has made. Cover crop germination has been fantastic and the mix of seeds we have included will keep our soil covered, add ample amounts of organic matter and nitrogen to the soil, suppress weeds and reduce compaction. We have also recently just completed the construction of a new greenhouse on the farm. This facility will focus on increasing the production of vegetables, flowers and herbs for sale through our marketplace. Not too long from now, more garden plants and garden education will start flowing into the community and help support our vision for an Edible City. Not far behind the greenhouse are plans for improvements to our entrance. The narrow driveway into the farm that constricts cars, people and bikes will be widened and a paved parking lot will finally be constructed to replace our dirt lot. Right now we expect these updates to be completed by late June of 2021. New native plantings and a really cool bio-swale design feature that captures and conserves water will be integrated into these projects. Our outdoor classrooms and garden spaces are also taking shape. You will notice a new chicken coop and shade structure in our Youth and Family Garden. The Sustainability Square classroom is close behind with features that enhance our hands-on classes in herb production, composting, container gardening and water conservation. And last but not least, we are starting the design process for a new animal barn and associated animal program. The barn will take a bit of time, but by Spring of 2021 we expect to welcome back pasture-raised chickens. More animals will follow. We cannot wait to see all of you back on the farm. Until then, stay healthy.