Recently, the newly formed Sonoma Valley Grange #407 began a new chapter, partnering with Sonoma Springs Commons (formerly Sonoma Springs Community Hall) on reopening the Hall for local farmers and food producers. About a dozen showed up and enjoyed a wonderful holiday potluck gathering. The Springs Commons continues the mission to support Healthy Farms Healthy Food Healthy Community, allowing the Grange to serve as a homebase, while focusing its efforts on providing a community center for the Springs. Together we anticipate a productive 2023 in support of Sonoma Valley!
Happy Holidays Everyone!!!
The altar at the Springs Community Garden was made by community members with special help from Zaira and Alexis from Sonoma County Regional Parks and Jesus from the Springs MAC. Flower were generously donated from Oak Hill Farm and pumpkins from Whole Foods
Join us at the Springs Community Garden at Larson Park Saturday, October 29th 10:00am – 2:00pm for a Fall Celebration! Pop-up pumpkin patch, pumpkin carving, bilingual activities, altar building and more.
Come out to the Springs Community Garden Saturday September 17th 10:00am- 1:00pm. Pick up some plants for the fall garden or sign up to be a garden volunteer and grow together! Their is a community creek cleanup day on Sonoma Creek at the same time for more community engagement.
The Springs Garden is entering the busy growing season of late Spring to early Fall. This abundant time of year has the garden producing good amounts of leeks, garlic, broccoli, kale, peas, fava beans, herbs and flowers. We are making room for summer crops where we can and preparing for improvement projects such as a sink/washstation and an artistic paint job for the tool shed. This is a public, community garden, all who wish to volunteer can email us here at firstname.lastname@example.org. Community members will receive a simple training in the systems of the garden and goals for current and future development, sign a simple insurance waiver, then can participate on any level desired. Let’s keep Growin’ in the Springs!
The following is a recent article highlighting the high quality local foods we enjoy in the Valley!:
Sonoma Valley has long been known as a source for high quality food. This fact was enshrined when Alice Waters chose Cannard farms as a supplier for her then nascent farm to table restaurant concept in Berkeley – Chez Panisse. Long before that, the Valley put forth abundance in the form of quality cheese and dairy, orchard crops such as walnuts and stonefruit, and of course, premium wines. Over the decades, the viticulture grew in size and notoriety, but, as may be redundant to many Sonomans, good wine is best accompanied with good food. Many of the finest restaurants in Sonoma and beyond tout their use of local produce, meats, dairy and beverages on their menus, and some groceries have done similar in their promotion of locally sourced food and drink.
Its beneath this backdrop that Mike Zakowski (Mike the Bejkr in Sonoma parlance) has thrived. Known for his breads, pizzas, and huge array of baked goods, Mike branched out his culinary reach some years back in a partnership with Tony Coturri, legendary natural wine maker, in the production of a local cider. Recently, this partnership produced an award winning cider at the Good Food awards. I sat down with Mike over a glass of this medal-winning cider to discuss good food and drink.
“Mike, how did this partnership come about between you and Tony?”
MZ – “Back in 2014, I was training for the masters de la boulangerie, an international baking competition, in Paris, and was developing a cider bread. I am a big fan of natural and organic wines, Coturris focus, and approached Tony about the concept and it went from there.”
“Did you have a roadmap for what you wanted to do?”
MZ – “We wanted to make a natural cider, in a similar fashion as Tony does his naturally fermented wines – no yeast, no sulfer, just juice. To find the best juice we talked to Paul Kolling, famous West County apple farmer (and husband of the famous sandwich shop chef Kendra Kolling, the Farmers Wife). He sourced gravenstein apples from Sebastapol and we made our first vintage.”
“I remember that, the clear glass jug”
MZ – “Yeah we started out with custom bottles, hemp paper labels and other things that we changed to reduce costs over time. We changed to a standard size 750ml bottle, and the recipe varied as we worked on the fermentation and natural carbonation, but have kept the same simple ingredients 100% Gravenstein apples, thus the name, Aeplz.”
“The label refers to the production as being Petillant Naturel, is this fancy talk for natural wine?”
MZ – “Not exactly, it is an old process, known as the methode ancestrale in France, of bottling the cider while it is still fermenting to trap carbon dioxide, creating natural carbonation.”
“How does it feel to win the category in this event, it looked like there was some good competition!”
MZ – “Its good to be recognized for what you do, for making something that stays true to the essence of the ingredients, and the history and culture of the process. It’s the same with my baking, you start with the best ingredients, always organic, and local if possible, and you have a strong foundation to work from”
“Where can people find a bottle of Aeplz”
MZ – “Tony has it marketed under the Coturri label found at various wine shops. The Aeplz label is only available from me”
“Well we know where to find you, Friday Farmer’s Market!”
MZ – “Yep, see you there.”
You can find Mike and his latest culinary creations at an epicenter of quality local food, the Fridays Farmers Market weekly 9:00am – 12:30pm at Depot Park.
(Seth Dolinsky is manager of the Sonoma Valley Agricultural Cooperative, a program of the Sonoma Springs Community Hall aimed at supporting local farms and food producers using organic methods and ingredients, and is owner of New Land Systems, a regenerative land management company.)
After a very wet end to 2021, things are drying out here in the Valley. At the garden, the beds are either planted with spring crops or finishing up on fall plantings. New herbs are planted or awaiting pots (for spearmint, lemon balm and other invasives). Plans are being drawn up for garden improvements and expansion, and for volunteer days to share the bounty and experience. All interested volunteers can contact Seth at email@example.com
The following is an article we have submitted to the Sonoma Sun, a great local newspaper, to highlight the current bounty found at our local farmers market:
As the days get shorter and the temperatures drop, the end of the growing season for Sonoma Valley farms is upon us. The Winter Solstice is a time when nature retreats and humanity celebrates. With the heady abundant days of summer long past, local farms are near the end of what has been a solid growing season. A visit to Paul’s Produce just off Arnold Drive for a visual reconnaissance revealed the dirt on what’s coming to market for the holidays.
As usual, my inspection yielded exceptionally tidy rows of vegetables, in all shades of green mixed with reds from lettuces and chicory, a reminder of Paul’s skill in growing and managing his crops. There were signs of recently harvested fennel bulbs, with only the outer skins remaining discarded along the bed. There were long rows of brassica’s – broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and kales – some of which were in the process of harvest, while others, due to successive plantings, were laying in wait for future harvest. I felt a sense of security, as a resident of the Valley, in knowing there was food growing in my neighborhood, and lots of it!
My trip to the Friday Farmers market led to a reunion with Paul’s crops, now harvested and laid out on tables that seemed to go on forever. Going down the line we had lettuce mix, radicchio, arugula, pea shoots. There were the brassicas, next to the last peppers of the season, root vegetables a-plenty, including Paul’s famous carrots. German butterball potatoes, leeks, onions, and winter squash – a true bounty and resource for the home chef. And that was just one booth at the market!
Across the way, the Patch had another impressive spread, highlighted by large tables of purple and yellow cauliflower, large heads of lettuce, beets, squash, beautiful bunches of multi-colored radish, and, incredibly, tomatoes! Owner Lazaro Calderon admitted “This is my last week, I’m going to till in everything before the rain”. He sounded relieved to take a break from the vegetable treadmill that he had been on for 9 months strait. While the Patch will be missed, the slack is taken up by Oak Hill Farm, with their aesthetically pleasing booth, decorated with cut flowers and greens, holiday wreaths, and excellent produce, including: Romanesco cauliflower, turnips, little gem lettuce, Yukon gold potatoes, persimmons, garlic and whole brussels sprout stems.
Loaded to bear with vegetables, I moved to fruit, picking up great mandarins from Gertz farm. “I’ll be here every week” assured orchardist Chris Gertz, “Citrus is coming on strong” pointing to navel oranges, pink grapefruit and Meyer lemons. More citrus was to be had at Rhodes farm across the way, as well as Asian pears, apples, persimmons, and late harvest Crimson table grapes from the Central Valley. I stopped for the micro-greens from Sweetwater Spectrum, some carrots from Ortiz farm, who had impressive holiday wreaths, mushrooms from Sammy’s Bohemian Farm from Occidental, and, of course, bread from Mike the Bejkr, who has a variety of seasonal breads and baked goods, cookies, scones, and incredible kabocha squash chocolate cookies. With so many more booths to go, selling local meats, eggs, dairy, teas and coffee, fermented foods, I realized two things – how lucky we are to have high quality foods available directly from the producers, and… that I had to go back to the ATM. Friday’s farmers market is truly a one stop-shop!