By Mary Vogel
Since 1992, the city of Arcata has shown its dedication to organic and sustainable farming.
Susan Ornelas was an undergraduate at Humboldt State when she and a handful of other students and faculty started the Arcata Educational Farm.
“I was taking great joy in the fact that we were talking about permaculture in City Hall [in ’92],” said Ornelas, who has been on the Arcata City Council since 2009.
When the farm began, Ornelas taught classes, offered through Humboldt State, that focused on organic farming, permaculture, composting and even cooking.
“The city knew it was important that students knew about food systems,” said Ornelas. “[Farming knowledge] could help create a healthy community.”
Twenty years later, what is now the Bayside Park Farm, continues to nourish the community who helped created it.
“Interacting with the community and getting to know people is the best part of the CSA,” said Leandra Lopez, who manages the farm alongside partner Jayme Buckley. CSAs are a very simple program, and they differ from farm to farm. At Bayside Park, $450 will get you 21 weeks of fresh fruits and veggies. That’s about $21 per week, and a lot of fresh produce.
“It’s so wonderful to share a meal with someone, and even better to know that you grew a meal for someone,” said Lopez, 24.
The farm has a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program as well as a community farm, where people can rent garden plots and tend their own crops. Gayle Hove, 57, works in Arcata as a physical therapist.
“The beets are so good!” Hove said, smiling. Hove has been a member of the summer CSA program for the last three years, and plans on signing up again.
“I love how fresh the produce is,” Hove said. People come pick up their fruits and veggies every Friday right at the farm.
Joanna Ditommaso, 27, is a summer volunteer at the farm, when she’s not working as a biological science technician at Redwood National Park. Those who volunteer or intern at the farm are encouraged to take some literal fruits of their labor home with them.
“We bring home a lot of veggies,” said Ditommaso. “It’s too much for just me.”
In addition to some farmers who sleep at the farm overnight, and the occasional field mouse, farm inhabitants include five mother goats, and two baby goats who were born two weeks ago. They expect seven more babies to be born this month.
Once the babies are born and stop drinking their mother’s milk, the farm plans to start selling the milk.
“It makes really tasty cheese,” said Hove.
Understanding how food grows is not purely an academic learning experience. Volunteers and interns also learn how emotional nurturing something can be.
“You’re caring for something, you put your love into it, and if it dies, you feel like you’ve failed,” said Ornelas. “But nature has its own way.”
If you’re interested in volunteering at the farm, visit them at 930 Old Arcata Road. Summer internship positions are available, which you can apply for online through the City of Arcata’s website. No experience necessary, just a passion for learning and enjoying the sun and soil.
“Everybody has something to bring to the table,” said Lopez. “All of us together are pieces of the puzzle.”
If interested, it is also time to apply for a CSA share, which can be done online.
Throughout trials of blight (major culprit of the 1845 Irish Potato Famine), weeds, rats, nighttime dog attacks, and funding issues, the Bayside Park Farm doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere but up.
“We’re having a 20-year anniversary,” Ornelas said, proudly. “We gotta have a big party!”
Farmers at the Bayside Park Farm can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (707) 382-8273.