Monday, July 2, 2012

Facebook & Farm Tours...when Social Media takes you outdoors...

A nice spot to rest on a hot summer's day.
Believe it or not, I know of some Facebook hold-outs...seriously. These are fairly educated, professional people with friends and family in other states and countries who (I think) could benefit from connecting on FB. People who, regardless of their claim to 'keep in touch the old fashioned way' (and then don't), complain about not knowing what I'm up to, which is pretty funny considering all of the comments I get from acquaintances who claim they always know what I'm up to (thanks to FB). And while I can acknowledge the time sap the internet provides many of us, I see these same people spending countless hours playing games on their cell phones or watching trashy reality TV...I mean, if you had any talent you could Facebook while watching Mob Wives and never miss a beat!

But this post isn't about those friends who refuse to embrace what clearly isn't going away. It's about a local Farm Tour that I went on thanks to a post on, you guessed it,  Facebook (see...this is how people find out about things to do these days, it isn't all about hooking up with old flames!!).

Slow Foods Solano hosted a tour of the local farms in our little city of Vacaville. I was excited that fellow blogger and friend, Lauren, wanted to go so I tagged along with her and her 2 friends, Melissa and Dave. One of my favorites, Soul Food Farm, was the jump off point for the tour.

The hens are always around greeting their customers.
I don't eat eggs often but when I do this is where I buy them. Knowing that the chickens are free to roam around and do the things chickens do means I am getting the best nutrition out of each and every egg without all of the guilt that comes with buying the factory farmed variety. And just for the record, buying "Free Range" may make you feel better but it means nothing to the poor hens who really never get to enjoy their short lives.

Mmmm, lavender!

The next stop was Morningsun Herb Farm, a local nursery that also hosts classes on things like gardening, essential oils, soap casting, candle making, aromatherapy and medicine making (or what my husband likes to refer to as "Hippie Classes"). This is where I buy all of my starter vegetables, especially tomatoes. The farm hosts several events throughout the year where you can sample foods and drinks made with the herbs grown on the premises. It really is amazing how much better iced tea can be when made with lemon verbena or how the subtle flavor of rose geranium can make a second slice of cake almost impossible to turn away.

Future Cabernet vines.
Our next stop was Mercier Grapevines. Any one who is interested in wine should take a tour of this facility. Mercier takes root stock and grafts the varietals onto the stock to create disease resistant grapevines. The process is really fascinating and our host, Sebastian, walked us through every step.

Root Stock
Sebastian showing us how the grafting machine works.
The varietal (light colored) grafted onto the root stock.
The grafted root stock is then placed in a sterile growing medium and placed in a humid room to form a 'callous'.

The greenhouse...wall to wall baby grapevines.
Sebastian and his wife hosted a wine tasting with at least 5 different wines...and they were very generous with their pours.

Now that we had a pretty good buzz going, we headed over to the much anticipated Be Love Farm. Owned by Matthew and Terces Engelhart, Be Love was started to supply as much as 50% of the fresh produce for the couple's California based organic, raw and vegan restaurants Cafe Gratitude.

Veggies growing at Be Love Farm.
Sunflower sprouts

The 21 acre farm includes a large greenhouse for raising wheat grass and sunflower sprouts, 7 acres of nut trees, and several fields of vegetables. My husband might have actually had a cow here because this is an uber-hippie, commune type set up...although I was completely intrigued. The couple lives on the premises which has 2 yurts (one for them and one for guests), an outdoor kitchen (which is the only kitchen), and outdoor pizza/flatbread oven, composting toilets (which smell better than any outhouse I've ever been in...and even better than a few indoor modern bathrooms), a fresh water pool, sauna and bathhouse.

Matt (in black) speaking to our tour group in front of the outdoor kitchen. In the foreground is a fabulous pumpkin seed brittle fresh from the oven.

Matt and Terces' yurt.
Regardless of your level of hippiness, Be Love has a lot to offer for someone looking to decrease their carbon-footprint and/or raise their own food (even the back yard gardener can benefit). Matt and Terces show a real appreciation and connection to the land that feeds them and to slowing down and enjoying each moment. It was a reminder that with all of the luxuries most of us are afforded, sometimes unplugging from the computer, turning off the TV, leaving the comfort of the air conditioning and going outside to feel the sun on your back and the soil between your toes is what really connects us to the Earth and to each other.

After we left Be Love, our quartet decided to head back to Morningsun Herb Farm to enjoy the picnic. A lovely late afternoon chat over hummus and rice crackers under a giant shade tree was the ultimate way to top the day.

The perfect shade tree for a summer picnic.

On a final note, the one thing that really surprised our little group was that we were the only ones from Vacaville (remember this tour was held in Vacaville). While our city seems more like a small town, it is just shy of 100,000 people...and 4 of us showed up. The remaining attendees came from places 40 or more minutes away. Perhaps the citizens of Vacaville already know what is available to them in their own backyard? Perhaps, like much of the U.S. the conveniences of corporate America over-rides the desire to help support, or even get to know the, local farmers (several of my friends at least attend the Farmer's Market in town)? Perhaps they were too busy with Facebook, tending to their own Farmvilles to experience the real thing?
Sometimes I find myself struggling to find that balance between my cyber life and real life so it's nice when these world collide. You can find the beauty of social media when it encourages you to do something new, explore, act. I read an article on Elephant Journal yesterday that pointed out this need to not just 're-post' things (inspirational quotes being all the rage right now) but to embrace the words and what they mean, to go out and live. Trust me, the keyboard will wait patiently for your return.

Morningsun Herb Farm

Be Love Farm


  1. So with you on this thought!! I've been meaning to get my tour post up too...just too busy. busy, busy, busy...

    then I read this article...and I'm guilty, guilty, guilty...

    Oye! Great post BTW :)

  2. That's a great piece in the Times...and so very true. I've been reading a couple of books (all at the same time, talk about 'busy work') and they all say sticking to a schedule is key. I've been trying to work with that...of course it's taken me a week to reply to comments on my blog but, well, I'm trying...really!! Anyway, it makes sense...block out an hour every day to write (not necessarily post) and your mind gets used to being 'creative' at that hour...we'll see...


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