Good Humus Farm

Interview with farmer Jeff Maine by CSA member Barbara Diskin

Good Humus Produce is the source of our dried apricots, peaches, and nectarines.  It is  a 20-acre farm located in Northern California, which produces a variety of fruits, vegetables, and flowers.

I spoke to Jeff Maine, who with his wife Annie started the farm in 1976 after they graduated from UC Davis.  Their interest in organic gardening began when they were living in a coop arrangement in college.  They studied things like French intensive gardening and used techniques like raised beds and double digging in an effort to learn how to get the most out of a small plot of land.  Even back then, they quickly realized the importance of taking care of the soil.  But the most important lesson that emerged was the value of planting a healthy seed in healthy soil.  

I asked about farm labor.  They tend to use the same local people each year, employing a few of them year-round.  Economic conditions to a degree set the salaries, which have risen slowly over time.  They make no use of migrant workers.

Since Good Humus is a certified organic farm, I asked how they maintain the proper nutrient level in the soil.  Compost and cover crops, including things like mustard, broccoli, rye, cowpeas, vetch, and field peas.  These plants are “healers”, some providing nitrogen and others, such as broccoli, serving as anti-microbials.  

As with all farms, they must be concerned about predators.  They have a deer fence, but they must also worry about other animals like the wild turkeys who love leeks.  Under organic gardening rules, they are allowed to use sulfur, oil, and copper compounds spring and fall to ward off fungus, something that can be devastating.  Jeff is constantly searching for something better within the organic framework.

They sell their products locally to coops, their own CSA, and at farmers’ markets, avoiding the large stores like Whole Foods.  Spiritual Food CSA contacted them to arrange to buy their dried fruits.  

I asked what the most labor intensive crop was and to my surprise Jeff said, “Flowers.” 

He said his biggest challenge as a farmer is mental, maintaining an open mind and a positive attitude.  He has to remind himself to stay connected to the soil from time to time.  Their dependence on stable weather, with which much of California is blessed, makes slight deviations seem like real problems.  

A  unique aspect of Good Humus Produce is their efforts to establish an agricultural easement, which will help guarantee the future use of the land for similar farming.  He is hoping to finalize it this year, thereby creating a model for sustaining small farms.

At the conclusion of the interview, Jeff’s wife Annie reiterated how happy they are to have an alliance with Spiritual Food CSA, which connects like-minded people across the country.
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