Sweet Stories 2021

Enjoy sweet stories shared by the talented individuals making the magic happen at Soil Born Farms. We wish you and your family a healthy and joy-filled holiday season.

Shannon Hardwickequote greenGrowing Together School Garden Initiative has been working at some school sites for as long as 8 years now. During the pandemic we had no ability to take care of our school gardens. This past summer as we returned to Pacific Elementary, we noticed that the garden had been weeded and worked on. After some investigation, we learned that a previous student of Pacific Elementary had seen the garden in disarray and in response, she recruited her family to help work in the space. When she shared this with one of the teachers, she spoke about how impactful the garden had been on her learning and well-being when she was a young student. She was concerned that future students wouldn’t have the opportunity to learn in and enjoy the space. In addition to recruiting her family, she was also partnering with students in the summer school program. Each day, she took a small group of students out to work in the garden. What a full circle moment! We believe school gardens transform lives. The actions of this previous student speaks so much louder than words. She has become a leader, teacher and an advocate for the power of school gardens. Amazing ~Shannon Hardwicke, Youth Education Manager

Callie Urnerquote greenThrough almost two years of uncertainty and life disrupted on a global scale, my appreciation of the little things is very real and well-practiced. I come to the farm less than I used to, as most of us on the administrative team continue to work hybrid schedules. When I am on-site, the farm seems quieter, calmer, a place that has space to listen to the birds, to take in a glorious sunset and smell the hospitable earth; it’s a place that invites contemplation. I have been pleased to share this place with others in the past year. Through our teen job training program, which we have been able to maintain with generous grant and donor support, the daughters of my high school friend have found an opportunity to gain job skills and become part of our organization’s community. It has been a beautiful thing to be part of the team that is training them, getting to know them better and seeing them grow and develop. Soil Born provides beautiful moments like these regularly, to all who are connected here. I hope you have been touched by Soil Born with a similarly beautiful moment and would consider giving back with a financial donation that will allow us to continue to provide these moments and connections for our community long into the future. ~Callie Urner, Chief Financial Officer

quote greenWith 2021 coming to a close and leaving so many of us with a general sense of uncertainty as to what 2022 might have up its sleeve, I remain cautiously optimistic, a phrase that has become my default response to any question about the future. Despite the hardships and heartaches that seemed to dominate the conversations and remain in the spotlight throughout the year, gratitude has allowed me to hold onto my optimism. Not everyone can say that they landed their dream job at a non-profit farm, while in the midst of a global pandemic, but thankfully I can. I have found myself immersed in a nurturing work environment, rooted in kindness and blossoming with patience and respect. Where the sharing of knowledge and purposeful efforts to recognize and appreciate each other is seemingly on everyone’s to-do list. I’m amazed as I watch coworkers navigate difficult situations and troubleshoot solutions in time-sensitive situations, and all with smiles on their faces and a calm confidence that they and their team can handle it. I’m grateful to be a part of that team. Seeing visitors at the farm enjoy exploring and experiencing all that the farm has to offer, I am often reminded just how incredibly fortunate I am to be here, working alongside these wonderful people that I greatly admire, and being a part of that joy. ~Jessica Pollock, Accounting Assistant

Laceyquote greenThis time of year always has a special feel. Despite the chill in the air, the farm is filled with a warm golden light all afternoon as the low winter sun makes its short journey across the sky. As I close down the Youth Garden at the end of each day, I can’t help but feel so grateful for all of the hands that have returned to work the soil in the past year. From the small volunteer groups who planted our flowers this spring to the multitudes of students who replaced those flowers with cover crop this fall, so much love and laughter have gone into each growing thing in the garden this year. Each month this year seemed busier than the last as we welcomed students back to the farm for day camps, field trips, homeschool classes and more, and it has been such a beautiful thing to watch their joy in discovering the magic of our farm once again. When I look out at our garden and farm at the end of each day in that golden winter sunlight, I can’t help but smile and think back to all of the moments that brought us here, and I find myself cherishing those memories more than ever before. ~Lacey Carlson, Youth Educator

Shawnquote greenThe work of Soil Born lives on and perhaps most significantly, new insights gained from adversity have helped to crystallize our purpose moving forward. For me personally, the most powerful insight has come from the unusually quiet days on the farm, which have allowed a deeper connection to this place and allowed witness to many small daily miracles. Great Horned owls calling to one another at night from the stately Sycamore trees, Gulf Fritillary caterpillars feeding on the
Passion vine in our Youth Garden, beavers busy building on the restored Cordova Creek, parasitized Bagrada bugs in the veggie field, California king snakes sightings around my house and Quail sightings in the hedgerows. These observations, among many others, are particularly telling because in some small way they all evidence a resurgence of life within an ecosystem that is heavily managed by humans trying to feed themselves. Balancing the needs of the whole ecosystem, including those of humans, has been a daily practice for Soil Born Farms for the past two decades. This rebirth at the American River Ranch tells me that health happens when we listen, learn and apply active consistent stewardship to the places that we live and work in. In a world experiencing so much chaos and turmoil, this deepened insight serves to strengthen my resolve to practice, teach and literally dig in.
~Shawn Harrison, Founder & Co-Director

Lisettequote greenA great memory that I would like to share is when I transitioned to work in our Greenhouse as the Farm Business Assistant. Hands-on learning about the love and care each seed and plant requires is valuable. The entire process can be vulnerable; nevertheless, the steps where the seed grows into something either edible, medicinal or beneficial is beautiful. Working at Soil Born has allowed me to see these practices, and I would not have traded these new experiences at all. I am excited to see what the new year may bring, not only for our non-profit organization, but also to see what is in store for our Greenhouse as well. I am appreciative for all the support we receive each week, thank you kindly! ~Lisette Aguilar, Farm Business Assistant

quote greenThis past year was a little more solitary than usual, but I found a great community in the group of regular volunteers that come to the farm each weekend to work and enjoy one another’s company. It was refreshing to experience conversation amidst rewarding work with wonderful people, and against the inspiring backdrop of the American River Ranch. We all learn so much from one another as we work and share stories. It is a blessing to have a shared space for the community to form and grow at Soil Born Farms. ~Jennifer MacLeod, Community Educator

Laurelquote greenIn 2021, I experienced a renewed feeling of hope for the future. This year we welcomed people back to the farm for in-person activities and started building back our programs. I am thankful for the resourcefulness, thoughtful planning and creative minds of our leaders, which has kept us alive as an organization throughout this difficult time. One thing I learned this year is that it is ok to change directions and carve out a new path for yourself, even if it isn’t what you planned for. Sometimes the new path turns out to be better than the old one. Change is ok and even creates new strength and growth. ~Laurel Smith, Admin Coordinator

quote greenSoil Born Farms is an organization that I am extremely grateful to be a part of. It is a community place and uplifting to the staff that work there and to those who visit the farm. Recently, I have been inspired by people who have come out to enjoy what the farm has to offer. There are so many ways to experience the gifts of the farm: the marketplace, volunteer programs, educational walks and talks, or just a visit to feel a connection to the natural world to name a few. Health of staff, community, and the environment as priorities allow you to feel good about the positive impact Soil Born Farms has on everyone and everything the organization touches. As the farm continues to upgrade and improve the operation, gradually more access can be given to the public. Sharing the farm and what it represents gives me great joy and I appreciate all who support an organization that is so very special. ~Steven Law, Farm & Events Assistant

Michelle Sikoraquote greenDespite the hardships and loss that we all experienced in the past year, the generosity and kindness of others have made me feel immensely grateful. Being part of a local food system that provides healthy and nourishing foods to the community is a passion of mine. As our Farmhouse Kitchen continues to go through renovations, we have experienced the support of some local businesses by allowing our small but mighty Culinary Arts Team to use their commercial kitchen spaces. A huge thank you to Rick Mahan, chef-owner of OneSpeed Pizza restaurant, and the crew for sharing your kitchen with our team; the Greek Orthodox Church; and the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op. I am also grateful for our CAT volunteers and their eagerness and excitement to get back in the kitchen, giving their time to support our team. To Allyson especially, thank you for being with us just about every week this year! Lastly, a special thank you to all who have donated and to any who can donate to our project to help us continue supporting our community and to move our Farmhouse Kitchen to its new and exhilarating future. ~Michelle Sikora, Kitchen & Nutrition Coordinator

quote greenWho knew that an old refrigerator and a crockpot could be the answer to a seemingly unfixable, neverending dilemma. For several seasons, our Greenhouse staff has struggled to germinate certain seed varieties in the warmer, summer months, when the demand for cool crisp lettuces and greens are high. Our germination success rate floated around 15-30% for many varieties, leaving us with fewer crops and empty farm beds. We tried everything from shuffling trays back and forth from our shady barn to moving tables under the canopy of the mulberry trees surrounding our office. However, this mostly resulted in increased labor, added resources and greater financial loss to our programs. This year, thanks to the hard work of our farmers and Greenhouse supervisor and support from our community, we were able to install a special germination chamber that greatly changed the outcome of our farm germination success. The contraption consists of a crockpot that sits inside a refrigerator and is controlled by a temperature probe. The probe is set to a desired temperature, maintained through the cooling of the refrigerator and the heating of the crockpot. This new chamber has transformed our work flow and ease of operations and has allowed us to grow the crops of our choosing almost year-round. It has also allowed us to grow and send more seedlings to school garden programs throughout the community. Every week when I load 28 flats of newly seeded lettuce trays into the germ chamber, I am reminded of the hard work, resourcefulness and teamwork of our staff that helps us persevere through even the most challenging of times. Often it’s the little things, the small donations, that can make the greatest impact ~Emily Hain, Youth Educator & Greenhouse Coordinator

Tylerquote greenIn the early moments of the escalating pandemic, fear and uncertainty put immense pressure on store shelves and food supply chains. National distributors and producers couldn’t keep up with demand. As a result, stores and restaurants leaned heavily on the local food system. Soil Born Farms, and the entire network of family farms in the Sacramento region, were able to answer the call when our communities needed it most. Global disruptions to the status quo can reveal the fragility of reality. What I value from that time wasn’t the increased sales, but rather the persisting value of a robust local food economy. I’m grateful for a supportive community that continues to value the work we do, even in the hardest times in recent memory. ~Tyler Stowers, Farm Manager

quote greenEvery farm that I have worked on has included lettuce in their crop plan. Those farms typically drop the leafy greens during summer months due to the crop being sensitive to hot and sunny summer conditions and choose to grow the succulent veggies in spring, fall and winter. Upon reviewing the crop plan early in the year, I was surprised to find lettuce on the schedule for the entire year and was skeptical that growing it could be accomplished during the harsh summers of the central valley. Planting after planting went into the ground and as the summer months rolled on we were able to accomodate for the drastic weather conditions using various techniques to keep the plants protected from the elements until harvest. Harvest after harvest I was continually impressed by the quality and quantity of the harvestable product, and I was encouraged that the exhaustive measures we had employed to protect crops and improve soil/ growing conditions had been successful. Lettuce is a part of my diet almost everyday when I have access to it, and in the past summers it was omitted from my dinner plate because I wasn’t growing it. I was grateful to have a homegrown salad during the fruit heavy season. I am also grateful to have the opportunity to be able to experiment with various growing techniques and field work that enable us to push the boundaries of crops, soils, and the environment in order to grow the same crop year round. ~Zebulon Siegel, Farmer

quote greenNature speaks to the people who hear the silence. People involved in activities of sowing seeds in the soil are the real worshippers of nature and God. From the day they prepare the soil for seeding to the day they harvest the produce from the seed they planted, they recite the word “God” either to ask for good weather and produce or to appreciate the good weather and produce. This connection with nature and God at the same time gives me the best satisfaction for the soul, along with organic and healthy food in daily life. Nature is therapy for the mind. It was a culture shock moving from the east part of the planet to the west, but I found a comfort zone in Soil Born with the nicest friends with a great attitude in a short time. It has been fun working here as I continue learning. I am very thankful to Soil Born and everyone here. Happiness is a magnet that attracts more happy faces. It is true because I find every single person who works here is very happy and satisfied. ~Shobha Giri-Thomas, Administrative Assistant

Teresequote greenIt’s no understatement to say that Soil Born Farms fosters community and connection. I lost a dear friend to cancer this year who loved the farm and volunteered for many years at the Autumn Equinox. Hanging in her bedroom was a flower crown she made in the Youth Garden at the last time this annual fundraiser was held in 2019 before the pandemic hit. Just outside this garden is a special spot they designated as the flower fairy garden of remembrance. A white yarrow was planted in her honor and its flowers will be utilized in bouquets and of course – for flower crown making in years to come. That makes my heart smile. Soil Born Farms is truly a special place, one that I hope endures for our future generations. ~Terese Hollander Esperas, Project Manager

Vanessaquote greenThis year one of the experiences that has positively impacted my life is the hybrid Marketplace. I am honored to have the opportunity to be one of the farm concierges each Saturday morning. In this position I am able to connect with the community who are driving through to pick up their weekly groceries and those who are coming to stay a little longer and stop by my area to see all the great items we have for sale, to ask questions about the organization and property or to pick up their veggies. I love talking to all the wonderful people who support our farm and educational programs. As a recent new homeowner in the Cordova Meadows neighborhood, I have been able to meet many of my neighbors and I am blessed to have seen others make similar connections while at our farm. I love this community and it is the highlight of my week to welcome them back to the farm each week. ~Vanessa Forwood, Community Education Coordinator

quote greenThis year at the farm was very exciting for me personally. I was given the responsibility of managing the orchards on the farm. As a military veteran I thrive in situations where the pressure is high and when I have a lot of responsibility. And taking on the orchard provided me with just that. I hope everyone enjoyed the fruit produced by the farm this year, and look forward to it getting better in the coming seasons. ~Bryce Wilson, Farmer

quote greenAs my first six months at Soil Born come to an end and I enter the second half of my first year at the farm, I am amazed at my fellow employees’ dedication to their jobs and the farm. I have never worked with a better group of people. They all welcomed me and have been very helpful to me adjusting to my job on the farm. In the last six months this job (and my co-workers) has given me something that I lacked, CONFIDENCE! I was very unsure about my capabilities and about whether I would be able to do this job (and do it well), but through their support and their confidence in me, I was able to gain confidence in myself. Thank you Adriana, Gary and Steven, your confidence in me and constant support made all the difference. I am also impressed by the number of volunteers who keep coming out on a regular basis to help out on the farm, as well as all the customers and visitors that come out every Saturday to pick up their orders and hang out on the farm. Their wonderful enthusiasm, cheerful attitudes and beautiful smiles are something I look forward to. I also want to mention the wonderful people that donate to the farm. I would not be here if it were not for a wonderful woman who has been a long-time supporter of the farm. I am honored to work for an organization that cares so much about the people and the land in their community ~Brad Harris, Groundskeeper

quote greenWhat a year! Looking back on the last 12 months, I choose to embrace the positive events of 2021, accept some of the negative, and be once again grateful for the people in my life; one of whom is my amazing daughter. This past summer she joined the Teen Empowerment Program, working at Phoebe’s Tea and Snack Bar and the Marketplace on Saturday mornings. The program has provided her opportunities to learn new skills, develop self-discipline and a sense of responsibility. She has benefitted in ways that will endure into adulthood, such as knowing the value of contributing to a team effort, managing her earned income, and appreciation for the good that we make in the world. I’m grateful that Soil Born provides this kind of opportunity for her and other kids in our community ~Gary Hare, Groundskeeper

quote greenThis year I am grateful for getting work done together. It may be slow and incremental, or even have set backs, delays, or other friction, but eventually, projects get completed because we stick with them as a team. There are learning curves, communication glitches, and just plain resistance to change sometimes, but our commitment to improvement shows everywhere you look on the farm, including in each face you see working here. ~Kellan MacKay, Farm Business Coordinator & Staff Herbalist

Adrianaquote greenEach day that I am at Soil Born Farms I feel gratitude for working in a beautiful, historic gem within the heart of the city. We are an oasis of the natural world, exemplifying regenerative agriculture and environmental stewardship. Despite another challenging year, our adult education program overcame obstacles through innovation and flexibility. We offered a hybrid model of online classes and outdoor in-person educational opportunities, including a setup of portable audio visual equipment and propane heaters on our kitchen patio. Over 1,200 students participated in online and in-person classes, farm tours and nature walks. Each Saturday as I check in students, they often tell me how much they appreciate and love Soil Born Farms for providing education programs that connect people to the land, teach practical skills that utilize natural resources in harmony with nature and the inspiration and healing they receive from being at the farm. One tender moment was particularly memorable on a chilly, misty morning where a student and I were overcome with emotion as we looked at the emerald green fields. We both stood in silence appreciating the stunning beauty of the multi-shades of green velvet plants glistening in the morning dew. It was an enchanting shared moment of being awestruck with the majestic power of nature intertwined with the nurturing, regenerative practices of Soil Born Farms. Please consider donating so we can continue serving our communities. ~Adriana Jones, Adult Education Manager

quote greenHardships, loss and division are some of the harsh realities that have followed this pandemic. But one thing is for certain, there is always yin to the yang, life after death, love after pain. For me, this virus has been a major motivator in discovering how to live my healthiest life, physically and mentally. The organic and mindfully grown produce here on the farm is medicine to our bodies, minds and soul. Having the opportunity to cook and share this nourishing produce with others who have been motivated by the virus to create a healthier life, has been a gift to me. Our health is of utmost importance currently and I get to work with an incredibly intelligent, passionate, and skilled group of people who strive to ensure the health and well-being of our community. ~Gina Marraccini, Chef Educator

Janetquote greenThere are so many things I love about Saturdays at the Farm. We have so many friends that return every week to enjoy the peaceful energy, the ever-changing beauty of the American River Ranch, live music and a sense of community. It’s a special treat to see the babies exploring the farm in strollers or their parents arms. It’s not long before they are running around on their own two feet delighting in the natural world. One synchronistic moment that I’ll never forget happened on a crisp autumn morning near Phoebe’s Tea & Snack Bar. Miriam, a wonderful artist, and supporter of the farm brought her recent painting to show us. It was a scene she had witnessed earlier in the year, a mom strolling through the youth garden holding the hand of her son who had recently started walking. A little while later Samantha and her son Benny rode up on their bike. They come to visit the farm each week, pick up their produce from the marketplace and explore. Miriam said “ Oh my goodness, it’s them!” Samantha, Miriam and Benny had never met before, but the painting was based on a photo she had taken of them in the summer. It was so special to share in this precious moment. I offered to take a photo of the three of them with Miriam holding her painting. Everyone that witnessed this special meeting, felt a touch of magic in the air. I learned last week that they have become friends and that Samantha purchased the painting to hang in their home. Sweet stories like this give me great pleasure knowing that the work we are doing to create a community farm where magical moments abound has come to fruition. ~Janet Zeller, Founder & Co-Director