Ollin is an Aztec word meaning constant motion or change. When my wife Kena and I started the farm in 2008, we picked the name Ollin knowing that we were embarking on a life where no two days would be the same, where we would be connected with the constantly changing soil, plants, animals and environment around us. With Kena’s background in accounting and teaching and my background in environmental and water resource engineering, we weren’t the typical farmers, and the learning process was often exciting, exhausting and humbling all at the same time.
The farm has grown steadily for six seasons, and our biological approach to soil management, working with microbial communities in the soil to channel nutrition and flavor into the plants, has proved to successfully increase yield and quality and give us a competitive edge. This season we grew nine acres of vegetables, supporting a 200-family CSA, two weekly farmers markets and a farm stand. That amount of garden space fits our systems and personnel well, and if we were going to add more acreage we would need additional labor and equipment to do so.
While we love growing nourishing food for our community, we have found that one of the biggest needs in building sustainable local food systems is education. Whether through cooking demos, school tours, gardening classes, nutrition seminars or farm dinners, we have found ourselves getting more involved each year in connecting our community with the soil and with food that sustains it. We enjoy the educational and community-building roles that the farm has developed and are always looking for ways to dedicate more time and resources to those efforts. We faced a big setback this year when record September rains caused flooding in our creek, and the area where we host events and classes was completely flooded. It was a devastating event with loss of equipment and creek habitat. Out of the difficult times arose opportunity to rebuild with intention, to take the lessons we have learned in developing productive vegetable fields and apply them to restoring creek habitat, to take the lessons of permaculture to incorporate food production in a resilient native habitat, and to take all these lessons and share them with the community around us.
As we look to our future growth, the biggest opportunity we see is education. A large number of our customers have their own gardens and are seeking education and resources to learn to build their own resilient soil systems and grow their own nutrient-dense foods. There is an immediate need to design more classes and connect people’s understanding of how their health is linked to the soil around them. There is an immediate need to provide fun learning environments to connect kids with soil and food. We are familiar with these programs and the time, equipment and resources required to implement them. We know how to make them financially sustainable. Our biggest challenge coming out of the flood year is finding access to the capital needed to equip the farm with materials that will make these programs a reality. We are dedicated to providing the time and knowledge necessary to launch these programs. With the help of Slow Money investors, we can make more diverse classes available and have a larger impact, both on strengthening the local food system and on increasing our farm’s sustainability.
If you’d like to learn more about how you can help or invest with Ollin Farms, get in touch with Mark Guttridge at Mark@ollinfarms.com.Register Now