Freshwater Farms Reserve

Elena Bilheimer, EcoNews Journalist

Mixed berries from RCAA Abuelita’s Demonstration Garden.

Summer is the time to reap the harvest of the garden, and by this time next year a new farm located just outside of Eureka will be helping the community do just that. This community farm project, which has yet to be named, includes a farmstand and a ¾ acre field in the back of North Coast Regional Land Trust’s Freshwater Farms Reserve. The berries, flowers, vegetables, and herbs that will be grown will be available through a community u-pick system and will also be donated to RCAA programs, Food for People, Betty Kwan Chinn Day Center, and Cal Poly’s Oh Snap! Student Food Programs.

This project is a collaboration between Redwood Community Action Agency (RCAA) and the North Coast Community Garden Collaborative (NCCGC) and merges NCCGC’s goal to provide everyone in the community access to gardens with RCAA’s experience of managing community gardens for decades. The reserve where the farm is located is made up of 74 acres of bottomland pasture that serves as a wildlife habitat and wetland restoration site. Matt Drummond, the North Coast Community Garden Collaborative Coordinator for RCAA, is spearheading the project.

“We wanted to offer our community a scenic, safe, and accessible space to harvest fresh produce and inspire our neighbors to grow their own food,” said Drummond. “We also wanted to provide a venue for free workshops and events, to help educate new and experienced gardeners alike. We have been donating produce to Food for People, Betty Kwan Chinn Day Center and other non-profits for years. The new property allows us to increase our growing capacity considerably and will allow us to donate more produce each year to more partners.”

Mushrooms from RCAA Abuelita’s Demonstration Garden.

RCAA’s lease for the project started in mid-May of this year, after their project proposal was accepted by the North Coast Regional Land Trust. Because the farm is still in the beginning phases, it has not yet been named. According to Drummond, the current top name contenders are Many Hands Community Farm, Barn Swallow Farm and Screaming Goat Farm. Drummond is open to the public submitting feedback and ideas for farm names.

One of the most unique offerings of the farm will be its community u-pick garden, which will be accessible to all income levels with donations accepted on a sliding scale. With the help of RCAA staff and volunteers, visitors will have the opportunity to pick their own berries, vegetables, flowers, culinary herbs, and medicinal plants. This will allow everyone in the community to have access to fresh, nourishing food and plants while also providing an educational environment. 

Drummond is currently preparing the u-pick garden around the farmstand so that starting in the summer of 2024 it will be open to the public for strawberry harvesting and flower picking. There will also be blueberry picking once the plants are established and able to produce copious amounts of fruit. The garden will be home to hedges of blueberries and raspberries, beds of strawberries, flowers, artichokes, culinary herbs, and native plants. In the  ¾ acre row crop area, the focus will be on cultivating vegetables that do well on the coast including root vegetables, leafy greens, onions, summer and winter squash, beans, herbs, and brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts).

In order to provide these resources for the community, the farm is grant funded and community supported. In addition to the involvement of RCAA, NCCGC, and the North Coast Regional Land Trust, students from Cal Poly Humboldt’s College Corps Program will be involved with the project as they are required to contribute up to 450 hours of paid community service with a local non-profit. Community volunteers are also needed to get the farm functioning and monetary donations are deeply appreciated to help sustain the farm. 

“I’m very proud to live in a community that supports projects like this one,” said Drummond. “There are so many great nonprofits and organizations doing incredible work every day and it gives me hope knowing that the community farm will serve several of these organizations in the coming years.”

If you are interested in learning more about this exciting community food project, submitting ideas for the farm’s name, providing input, or helping get the farm operational, email Drummond at mdrummond@rcaa.org or call him at 707-269-2071.