The idea of being a farmer can conjure visions of rolling fields of grain, cuddly-looking sheep nibbling on grass, ears of corn peeking above their stalks, and lazy cows chewing the cud. The reality, however, is far different. Farming is hard but very rewarding work. In our rural area, we are fortunate to have access to locally farmed foods that are available at grocery stores and at farmers markets held at different locations around the county. These farmers all got their start by having the seed of an idea of what they wanted to grow and sell. If you’ve toyed with the idea of becoming a small business farmer, we have a few ideas for you.
- Mushrooms: easy to grow, nutritious, and relatively simple to get growing. Learn about our client, The Forest People, and their journey to starting a thriving mushroom-growing business.
- Bees: we all know that bees make honey, but they can also make you money! A couple of our local honey producers are Carson & Bees and Lover’s Lane Farm.
- Specialty crops: over in Lake County, Peace and Plenty Farm** grows saffron, the most expensive spice in the world. They also have a farm stand where you can buy a wide assortment of organic produce. And, in Anderson Valley, the Boonville Barn Collective has lasered in on Piment d’Ville, a California grown Espelette pepper.
- Grains: we rely on a variety of grains as a fundamental part of our diet. In the Ukiah Valley, the Mendocino Grain Project was founded in 2009 to address the need for locally produced, environmentally guided staple crop production. You can become part of their CSA or buy products at local grocery stores.
- Cheese: in Willits, Ana and Gilbert Cox have been making their Shamrock Artisan Goat Cheese since 1983! In Boonville, Pennyroyal Farm produces a line of goat and goat/sheep cheeses, depending on the season… you can also take a tour and visit the goats in person!
- Organic farms: Mendocino County has been at the forefront of the organic food movement for decades. You can find organic produce and meats at our farmers markets and at farmstands, such as Fortunate Farm in Caspar, throughout the year. Stop by Velma’s Farm Stand in Anderson Valley for a taste of what’s growing at Filigreen Farm and in Albion, take a ride through the redwoods on Middle Ridge to visit Rosa and Dave at L&R Farm.
- Gardening: if the idea of starting a farm is overwhelming, take a step back and start a landscaping/gardening business. West Center client Lani Bouwer did just that and now has a flourishing and growing business in the Point Arena area.
- Meats: In Redwood Valley, Mendocino Meats‘ Adam and Paula Gaska raise beef, chicken, and more for sale online. And over the hill in Potter Valley, Magruder Ranch has been the steward for land that has been in their family for five generations.
If you have an idea for starting a small business based in agriculture, West Center has a specialty farm advisor, Sydney Grange, who can help you plant the seeds for a growth business. Call West Center today at 707.964.7571!
** Watch Melissa and Simon on the PBS series America’s Heartland!