Connecting with Local Food articles

Connecting With Local Food #35

WildeAcre Farm

by Cindy Wilder

It is an acre in size and it is now fairly wild. However 21 years ago, when I moved to Boonville from Los Angeles and started developing my mini farm, I thought the small existing garden should be tamed. A family emergency brought me north three years ahead of my husband Kirk. Our move this direction was precipitated by the fact that both of our daughters had escaped the city, Tamara to UC Santa Cruz and Tina to Sonoma State. Our property in Boonville had been purchased five years previously when we drove to Santa Rosa to visit some high school friends who had relocated there. That trip took us to several locations in search of the place where we would eventually retire.

When I retired and moved to our property in Boonville in late 1995, I wanted to expand the part time gardening I had been doing while I was working and raising my family. Growing as much of my produce as possible was now more possible. With this in mind I began searching out information on growing food and found that I had moved to an area that provided teachers of several methods of food production. The one that resonated with me was in nearby Willits.

The mini farming began with a weeklong class daughter Tina and I took at the Ecology Action mini farm in 1996. It was John Jeavons’ first teacher training class, during which we learned much about his method of Bio-Intensive Mini Farming. Working the earth deeply by double, and sometimes triple, digging allows the plants to be closely spaced to create a 100-square foot garden bed that shades it’s soil well and doesn’t need lots of outside inputs – just a sprinkling of compost made from last year’s compost crops. John began and has continued teaching people from around the world this method so that they can go back and teach their communities to grow more food on less land.

What Tina and I then learned by teaching our first weekend workshop a few months later on my new property, was that we didn’t really know enough yet, without more experience, to teach as well as John does. We did OK and the participants said they learned a lot. The main thing I remember, however, was asking Tina, “How would John answer that question?”

This many years later I could answer those questions from experience. I’ve been gardening all my adult life, but when I was raising my daughters and working part time, my gardening was also very part time. Since retirement and learning much more about plants and their relationship to the soil, I’ve become a much better gardener. But mostly what I have learned is that, like so many things in life, it is all a learning experience.

My first experience was learning to grow for market, becoming a Boonville Farmers’ Market vendor in my second year here. One of the most important lessons during that time was taught to me by the deer. I went out one Saturday morning to harvest lettuce for market and almost the entire bed had been munched. There was a dog fence because the previous owners had dogs and it had taken that long for the deer to realize there were no more dogs. Cats are good for gophers, moles and mice, but not so much for deer. That was when the deer fence went up.

In the ensuing years, WildeAcre has expanded from veggies to medicinal herbs to chickens to bees. It now grows food and medicine not only for people, but for the chickens and bees as well. There would be no food without pollinators. Growing enough forage for the bees has become one of our top priorities. Aside from the annual vegetable crops, almost everything new that gets planted is done so with the pollinators in mind. The volunteers, otherwise known as weeds, are left to go to flower unless they are in a path or are growing where something else needs to be planted. And from the bio-intensive perspective, there is the need to grow enough food for the compost pile as well. When there is not a fear of weeds taking over, all pulled or cut plant material can go into the compost pile so that, when the compost is used in the garden, the seeds can grow into volunteers for next year.

We now have AV Bee Club, which is about three years old and is made up mostly of fairly new beekeepers, so we are learning from each other and from other more experienced beekeepers that we are meeting along the way. Anyone who is interested in beekeeping is encouraged to email or call 707-895-2949. And everyone is also encouraged to plant as many pollinator plants as possible so that we can feed both the honeybees and all the other pollinators, which includes the many varieties of native bees.

I have been recycling since the early 70’s, but 0-Waste is a passion that has grown over the last five years or so. For those who are not familiar with the term, it means that what goes to the landfill is decreased by reusing, recycling and composting as much as possible so that there is almost no waste. For this reason, in addition to composting all plant material, except the food waste that goes to the chickens, I compost almost all paper products as well. What I learned from John Jeavons about composting is that a slow compost pile does not burn up as many nutrients as a fast pile, so most of my piles take almost a year to finish.

In addition to tending to my mini farm, I have been involved in Anderson Valley Foodshed almost since the beginning, 12 years ago this fall. A 0-Waste system is now in place at the Not-So-Simple Living Fair at the Mendocino County Fairgrounds in Boonville in July every year. This fair began seven years ago as a project of AV Foodshed.  Anyone wishing to be on the Foodshed mailing list to get the weekly update about what’s happening on the local food scene, can email

At about the same time that I became involved in AV Foodshed, I began managing the Boonville Farmers’ Market. At the end of my first year managing the summer market there was a growing desire for a way for locally grown food to be sold year round, so we began the winter market. The first two years it was held at the AV Grange and was called the Grange Mart. The third year was in front of Lauren’s restaurant and after that we moved one more time to our current location in front of the Seebass wine tasting room, next to the Boonville General Store. The summer market has been in the parking lot of the Boonville Hotel since before I moved to Boonville, so moving right across the highway for the winter market works out well. The winter market is now called the Boonville Winter Market and begins in November, since the Boonville Farmers’ Market is over at the end of October. You will find many of the same vendors at both markets, which are both on Saturday morning.

For the first time since my last year managing the summer market seven years ago, I am once again selling there. Janet Boonyagarn began helping with the maintenance of WildeAcre last winter and we are now selling starts at the summer market. At the same time that I was pulling back a bit from working a large garden space alone, Janet was interested in using the greenhouse for starts. That led to us getting an Ag Certificate to sell starts and produce at the summer market. It’s been fun to be involved again as a vendor.

Meanwhile, back on the farm, my most recent lesson has been taught to me by life in a family that sometimes needs extra attention. A couple of things have happened in the last two years that have taught me that I need to pull back on the attempt to control the garden. This lesson has been very well timed for me. Having to pull back and let things “go wild” has taught me that the plants often like to make their own decisions about where they will plant themselves. As I mentioned earlier, weeds are really just volunteers and if allowed to grow can be useful and beautiful helpers and, in many cases, provide food and/or medicine. Flowers are bee food and flowers that have gone to seed are next year’s volunteers. All kinds of things are chicken food and food for the compost. The best thing for me is that it is so much easier at a time in my life when I need to pull back, not only for my body’s sake, but also to be more open to some different experiences that I was not fully embracing when I was so focused on controlling a wild acre.

The Connecting With Local Food series is brought to you by Anderson Valley Foodshed. We are in the midst of another AV Foodshed activity called C’mon Home To Eat Month. While the harvest is abundant, we challenge you to eat healthy, fresh vitamin and mineral rich food produced in Anderson Valley, or within 100 miles, as a start to eating locally throughout the year. By doing this you will also support your local farmers/economy and reduce fossil fuel use. Check our website at for a calendar of activities. Email with your questions.

boxes of apples at The Apple Farm farm stand

C’mon Home to Eat 2017

For a full Calendar and more details click HERE!

A Mendocino Permaculture Event

Zeni Chestnut Gathering – Saturday, November  4, 2017

Mendocino Permaculture 36th Annual Chestnut Gathering and George Zeni Memorial Potluck will be held at the Zeni Ranch from 10 am to 4 pm, rain or shine, on Saturday, November 4, 2017. Our event has now grown into the Zeni Family’s Annual Chestnut Festival. There will be live bands, so bring your dancing shoes as well as your orchard boots!

The Zeni’s 100 year-old dry-farmed seedling trees are a testament to the sustainability of tree crops.

No admission cost; bring a potluck dish. Pick your own fresh chestnuts off the ground for $3.50/lb. De-burring the chestnuts on the ground is easier with good boots and gloves. Zeni also sells the de-burred clean chestnuts for $4.50.

Schedule of Events

10:30 am to 4 pm:  Chestnut gathering and roasting over the open fire.
11 am:  Tour of the ranch by the Zeni family.
12:30 pm:  Potluck and music, show and tell of local self-sufficiency.
1 pm:  Discussion on what this year has taught us; the drought; the best fruit and nuts.
2 to 4 pm: Chestnuts, music, taste the harvest.

Please bring: Potluck dish (oven available), made from local ingredients if possible, and bring your cup, plate, napkins and utensils. If you bring a dog, bring a leash and be responsible.

Bring your wine, fruit, nut, or vegetable harvests to show us what works for you. Demonstration tables will be available.

Bring cuttings of fruit plants to share: this is the beginning of the season to start cuttings of the easy-to-root hardwood plants. Starting cuttings so early gives them plenty of time to root with no inputs needed except the rain. Bring labeled, de-leafed cuttings (you can leave the leaf stem on) of these plants: olive, grape, fig, mulberry,  pomegranate, quince, kiwi, goji, currant, gooseberry, berries, cherry plum, roses.

Directions:  The Zeni Ranch is at 30995 Fish Rock Road at mile marker 15.6 (County Highway 122). From the Coast Highway 1 junction of Fish Rock (5 miles north of Gualala) go 15.5 miles east. From Highway 128 the Fish Rock Road junction  is at Hwy 128 marker 36.56, about 7.7 miles east of the Highway 256/128 junction, or 4.7 miles west of Yorkville. Take Fish Rock Road about 13 miles to marker 15.6. Using odometer and mile markers, it’s an easy and enjoyable slow drive through a most beautiful and very remote part of the county.

For information call Zeni Ranch 684-6892, Barbara & Rob Goodell 895-3897, or Mark Albert 463-8672.

For more information about the Zeni Ranch, see their Facebook website:

Mendocino Permaculture 2018 Winter Abundance Workshop – Scion and Seed Exchange will be held Saturday, February 10, 2017 at the Mendocino County Fairgrounds in Boonville, 9am-4pm. It’s our 35th annual event. Free admission, free scions & cuttings, free seeds, and free classes all day. Fruit tree rootstocks for purchase; lunch for purchase; beverages for purchase.

See you there!

Running With the Challenge 

            Last week with six special local dinner options out, your own local cooking, an AV Health Center Harvest Festival, and a Fermentation Fair with hands-on demos on how to ferment veggies, make kombucha, kvaass, kefir, and honey mead honey mead, plus kefir and sourdough cultures to share, we are heading into the final laps of AV Foodshed’s C’mon Home To Eat in October ‘17 challenge. The local harvests are being utilized!

            The calendar for the final week of C’mon Home to Eat ’17 features:

  • 10/26 Buckhorn Pub’s local food community dinner—you can get 10%-off tickets at the Boonville Farmers’ Market, Boont Berry, and Lemons;
  • 10/27 Mosswood Cafe’s lunch soup special;
  • Unfortunately, the 10/27 Boonville General Store evening pumpkin carving and pizza dinner had to be cancelled, we look forward to this lively event next year;
  • 10/28 Boonville Farmers’ Market—please check the Foodshed weekly update to see if there will be enough vendors for the last market of the season. You can also check the local farm stands to get the last of the summer veggies and winter squash.  If the BFM is open, the apple press will be available for making cider.  The winter market will also begin November 4th in front of the Seebass tasting room/Boonville General Store;
  • 10/28 Boonville Farmers’ Market potluck has been postponed for a few weeks.  If you would like to join the vendors and market stalwarts in a potluck/meeting to talk about the future of the BFM, please check with Amanda at 895-3492.  The BFM is looking for a new market manager (or two?) for next year. Interested?  You can also call Amanda for more information about this important position; and
  • 10/30 AVUSD local school lunch for students and teachers

After the dinner at the Buckhorn on Thursday, the 10%-off coupons redeemed for the 12 local dinners featuring local ingredients at our local AV eateries during October will be put into a basket and one will be chosen to receive a free dinner at one of our local restaurants.

Launching C’mon Home To Eat 2017

It’s here–October’s cornucopia of celebrations to put more local food on our plates and enjoy community activities to celebrate the long-awaited harvest of our Anderson Valley farmers and ranchers!

AV Foodshed’s calendar for the first week in October shows:

  • 10/1 Pennyroyal Farms hosting a Harvest Celebration from 4-6:00 to meet US Representative Jared Huffman with local appetizers and music.
  • 10/2 from 1-2:00 on the KZYX Farm & Garden Show Ruthie King will be interviewing Severine Von Tscharner Fleming about her work with the Greenhorns, which supports new farmers getting on the land, and the Agrarian Land Trust, which connects young farmers with affordable land.
  • 10/5 AV Foodshed monthly meeting 5-6:30 at 13461 Airport Road in Boonville.
  • 10/6 from 5-7:00 Seebass (next to the Boonville General Store) will serve gazpacho soup made from veggies from their garden and fresh bread made by Susan Robinson.
  • 10/6 6:00 Yorkville Market’s First Friday community local food dinner*
  • 10/7 Boonville Farmers’ Market from 9:30-noon in the Boonville Hotel parking lot where you can get all the summer produce plus mushrooms, olive oil, potatoes, meat, eggs, local canned goods, music, T shirts, aprons, and more
  • 10/7 Lauren’s Restaurant community local food dinner*
  • All-month specials feature fresh fruit popsicles at Paysanne, weekly specials at the Boonville General Store, and 20% off plants at AV Farm Supply

Looking for ingredients beyond your own garden and the Boonville Farmers’ Market? Check out Blue Meadow, Gowan’s Oak Tree, Apple Farm, Velma’s, Brock, Petit Teton, and Zeni farmstands; Lemons; Anderson Valley Market; and Boont Berry. Believe it or not there are five local olive oils available—Yorkville Olive Oil, Chatham Ranch, Filigreen Farm, AV Community Farm, and Bramble Family Farms. Meat producers are Dave Kooyers, Mendocino Heritage Pork, and AV Community Farm.

*Remember to pick up your AV Foodshed 10%-off coupons to eat dinner and support local food at Yorkville Market and/or Lauren’s this week and the other featured restaurants the following weeks. You can find the coupons at the Boonville Farmers’ Market, Boont Berry, or Lemons.


For a full Calendar and more details click HERE!