By Tanya Henry
Bolinas’ Gospel Flat Farm, Hog Island Oyster Company in Marshall and Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company are three of the 12 producers featured in the newly released book, Farmsteads of the California Coast.
This intimate collection of farm stories, recipes and the people behind them is a true collaboration between local food writer Sarah Henry (no relation), publisher of Yellow Pear Press, Lisa McGuinness and photographer Erin Scott. The idea stemmed from a visit by McGuinness to Harley Farms Goat Dairy in Pescadero, which inspired her to learn more about the Golden State’s coastal farmers.
“This book is really about celebrating farmers and bringing people back to the farm,” explains Henry, who notes that our culture of celebrity worship focuses a great deal on chefs and restaurants and less on the folks who grow and produce our food.
Henry, a Berkeley-based writer, received a writing fellowship from the Mesa Refuge in Point Reyes Station, where she wrote most of the book. But much of her research took her on the road as far north as Philo to The Apple Farm, and down south to a citrus, avocado and fresh-cut flower operation in Carpinteria.
Having grown up on the Central Coast, and driven up and down Highway 101 hundreds of times, I thought I knew the area well. However, this thoughtful collection introduces us to some lesser-known farmers, who unlike their inland contemporaries, face different kinds of challenges, and offer products that thrive in coastal climes.
Farmsteads, by definition, include agricultural land, barns and other structures. They are also places where food producers make and sell value-added products like pickles, preserves or wine and cheese. The Giacomini family’s Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company cites this designation as a core value, which means that they have complete control over their raw ingredients—from the feeding and treatment of their cows, to the quality of milk used in their award-winning blue cheeses.
There is much to discover in this compact and beautifully photographed book. Organized geographically from north to south, each section begins with the name of the farm, its location, hours and tour availability. Recipes from each farmstead are also offered, and readers get a glimpse into the lives of these committed folks—mothers, daughters, fathers and sons, many of whom are second- and third-generation families producing some of the state’s very best food.
‘Farmsteads of the California Coast’ book launch party, Sunday, April 24, 2pm, Gospel Flat Farm, 140 Olema-Bolinas Rd., Bolinas; Order the book on amazon.com.