With over forty years of experience, Northern California farmer Wayne James knows a thing or two about sustainable farming. With his sister Lee, he started their Sonoma County farm Tierra Vegetables in 1980 and has provided his customers and community the season’s freshest vegetables and fruits ever since. Hand-harvested daily, Wayne’s produce is more than just vine ripened deliciousness; it is a testament to the beauty of local, sustainable and community-supported agriculture.
Community Supported Agriculture is the practice in which a farm offers a certain number of “shares” to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products may be included. Interested consumers usually purchase a share through a subscription and in return receive a box of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.
Tierra Vegetables includes a 20-acre working farm, farm stand, weekly CSA program and even a commercial kitchen with on-site chefs. Their farm stand offers everything from asparagus to zucchini and countless vegetables in between, including 20+ varieties of dried beans and chiles, and field fresh strawberries. They also produce dried goods, seasonings, jams and handmade tortillas and tamales—all of which are produced in-house solely from their own crops!
Wayne’s years of experience in farming has taught him not just the ins and outs of growing the perfect carrot, but has given him the utmost respect for the land and his community. When asked about his sustainability efforts at the farm he explains, “Our philosophy has always been to grow and produce a crop in the best possible way. That includes being respectful of the community around us, the environment, and of course, trying to do it in a profitable way.”
“The most important thing is to buy local, to support your local economy!”
To Wayne, this sort of environmental sustainability means minimizing waste and utilizing local resources to the best of his ability. “We don’t use a lot of inputs. We don’t even use plastic mulch in the strawberry patch. It may save a lot of labor, but it’s not recyclable. I look at the overall picture to determine my affect on the environment. I may not make the right decisions all the time, but I’m always learning.”
As a direct to consumer farm, making community conscious decisions about their growing practices is incredibly important. Tierra Vegetables sells the majority of their crops directly from their farm stand, which
means Wayne interacts with his customers on a daily basis. “My customers are able to ask me whatever they’d like about our vegetables, and that’s why it’s important to know your farmer,” he says. Whether answering questions about his farming practices or educating people on how to use the various fresh produce, the customer is the focal point .
“My greatest joy as a farmer comes from my customer’s positive feedback. Some people admit that the majority of their diet comes from our farm, and that’s exciting to me.”
When asked what additional advice he would give to consumers about buying produce, Wayne explains, “The most important thing is to buy local to support your local economy! My second tip is to always support the people who do it in a sustainable fashion. If you can buy directly from a farmer, talk to them and see what their practices are. But if you don’t know the grower, buy organic.”
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