Spring is in full effect in Northern California Wine Country: baby grapes are forming on grape vines, festival season has started and farmers’ markets are beginning to burst at the seams with fresh produce.
Ahead of its time: Oak Hill Farm
Oak Hill Farm in Glen Ellen, California, has been a leader in organic and sustainably grown produce and cut flowers for over 30 years. It is no secret that I’m a fan of of the farm – last year I wrote a feature piece about Oak Hill Farm for the Sonoma Valley Sun.
Oak Hill Farm was originally a sheep farm, founded in 1955 by Otto Teller. Decorative plants for the floral industry were also grown on-site. Teller was ahead of his time – he used cover crops to attract friendly insects and aid plant growth. That method is still used today for the over 80 different types of plants grown on the 700-acre ranch, much which is protected land.
A marriage of flowers and produce
In 1977, Teller married Anne Bucklin (photographed above), and she began growing vegetables on the property to supplement floral sales. Produce was sold at a farm stand, in a red barn.
Otto Teller died in 1988 and Ann Teller continues to operate the farm. The farm is sustainable – both financially, environmentally, and ethnically: the farm provides strong support to all the farm workers, some who live on the property.
In fact, the majority of Oak Hill Farm workers are children of past workers, including Jesus “Chuy” Soto (photographed above). Both his father and uncle worked at Oak Hill and today, Soto oversees flower growing and he makes many of the beautiful bouquets for sale at the farm – including the one I purchased for my stepmom for Mother’s Day.
Oak Hill Farm’s Red Barn
This past Saturday, Oak Hill Farm’s Red Barn opened, where they have been selling produce and floral arrangements since the 1970s. They also their cut flowers, floral arrangements and dried flower wreaths throughout the region and beyond.
The Red Barn is over 100 years old and you can sense that century in the building upon entrance: the rusted old farm equipment, the squeaky doors that lead to floral arranging rooms and garlic drying upstairs, the smell of flowers and dust, the many voices – then and now – of farmers, floral artists, chefs, and the rest of us, who have worked and shopped in the barn.
When I visited on Saturday, I picked up a fresh cut bouquet (“posies”) for my stepmom for Mother’s Day, a small bouquet of sweet peas for myself, and a basket of strawberries.
They were also selling two types of radishes, kale, lettuce, herbs, eggs, and pickles that they pickle and jar on site. Later in the summer, fresh stone fruit is available and the Red Barn is the best place to buy pumpkins and gourds in the area.
Additionally, Oak Hill Farm sells locally produced goods, such as Rancho Gordo beans and herbal supplements from The Stinging Nettle.
The shopping experience is relaxed, the staff is friendly and well informed about their produce and the farm processes, and you can get a first hand look at a farm at work.
It’s amazing to have a place like this in my own backyard.
Oak Hill Farm is a member of Sonoma County Farm Trails, a non-profit that promotes local farms, CSAs, ranches, cheesemakers, vintners and more. When you see this sign, you will know you are supporting sustainable agriculture.
Visit Oak Hill Farm
Oak Hill Farm is located about 15 minutes north of Sonoma, 30 minutes south of Santa Rosa, and little over 1 hour north of San Francisco. The farm is located at 15101 Highway 12 in Glen Ellen. It is open on Saturdays only, from May until December, 9AM-3PM.
If you can’t make it to Oak Hill Farm on Saturdays, you can visit them at two local farmers’ markets in Sonoma: the year round, Friday morning Sonoma Farmers’ Market at Depot Park (270 1st St. W., Sonoma, 9AM-12:30PM) and the Valley of the Moon Night Market every Tuesday from May-October (Sonoma Plaza, 5:30PM-Dusk).
Whether you visit Oak Hill Farm’s Red Barn or their farmers’ market stands, be sure to bring cash and your own shopping bag. Picnic tables are located on-site and the farm stand is ADA accessible. Dogs welcome.
Check out Oak Hill Farm online here.
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