For the past 13 years the produce section at Bi-Rite has been a dynamic portrayal of the incredible seasonal fruits and vegetables that are being harvested throughout Northern California. Today, we are so lucky to grow our own produce on a three-acre plot in Sonoma and a gorgeous one-acre orchard in Placerville. In so many ways, starting the Bi-Rite farm was a natural continuation of our investment in food, agriculture, and the community we are feeding and being fed by.
Building relationships with all the farmers we work with is at the heart of everything we do. However, the missing link has always been our own connection to the soil. Until we began the farm, we had experienced just about every part of the Good Food movement except actually getting our hands dirty. In 2009, we finally broke ground on a small third of an acre in Sonoma. That first summer we set up all of our drip irrigation on timers, planted crops that needed minimal attention, and just crossed our fingers! We had an incredible first summer of tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers, and eventually added a chicken coup and bee hives to the mix!
That same year, Sam’s folks purchased a small piece of land in the foothills of the Sierras. This one acre orchard supplies both the Market and Creamery with blueberries, apples, peaches, figs, and much more all through the summer and fall!
In 2011, we partnered with 18 Reason to offer “Farm School,” a 10 class program that gives folks in our community the opportunity to learn how to grow their own food. In its fifth year now, we love seeing students transplant baby tomato plants into the ground in May and then harvest beautiful, vine-ripe fruit in August. As we grow, we’re excited to deepen our education programs to get more kids in the dirt, stay tuned!
In 2013, we hired Layla, who beyond giving the farm the attention and care it needs and deserves, has been dialing in the crops that grow best, and the crops that our chefs love to work with in the Market kitchens, improving the systems for planting, irrigating, and harvesting in ways we couldn’t have imagined. We soon realized it had become increasingly difficult to properly rotate the crops and give areas of the farm the rest they needed on one single acre. So in the 2016 farm season we expanded our production into the entire three-acre parcel. We’ve since begun planting perennial crops like hops, raspberries, and flowers, and upped our production of high-demand produce for the Markets in a big way! Layla has built up her farm crew and with the hiring of Anna, Anton, and Michael the farm is now being run by a fantastic group of next-generation farmers.
Throughout the month of September into October we’ll be celebrating the wonderful fruits and veggies from both of our Farms. Look for veggie crops like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash, and fruit crops like apples, figs, and melons. The produce will be highlighted in the produce section at both Markets with Bi-Rite Farm signage and the Market kitchens will be preparing and serving the veggies in their Deli dishes. Our farmer will also be taking a break from their daily farm work, coming down to meet our guests, and tell them more about the farm. Come “Meet Your Farmers” at 18th on Mon 9/12 and Tues 10/4 at 18th and at Divis on Mon 9/19 and Tues 10/11, always from 4-7pm!