By Michelle DiMuzio, Communications Coordinator
This story is part two of our Slow and Sustainable series, which profiles food businesses that are leaning into the “clean” of Slow Food’s ethos of good, clean and fair food for all. They are all winners of the Snail of Approval, a national award given to businesses embracing the environment, community, employees, and people-centered values.
Farm to Fight Hunger is a nonprofit organization that grows, harvests and delivers fresh, nutritious produce, free of charge, to those in California’s Sonoma County in need of healthy food. Eggs laid by happy, pastured hens are also donated to local food banks. They farm in an earth-friendly, sustainable manner and work to improve the soil health, therefore improving the nutritional content of the food they grow, increasing the amount of carbon the soil can hold and reducing greenhouse gasses. They work to make the farm its own healthy, balanced ecosystem, with habitat for both native plants and beneficial insects.
Farm to Fight Hunger joined a number of farms excelling at pursuing good, clean and fair food for all who have been awarded the Snail of Approval by Slow Food Sonoma County. This program is jointly managed by Slow Food Sonoma County North and Slow Food Russian River.
The interview below was conducted with Bruce Mentzer, founder and farmer, and has been edited for clarity and conciseness.
Can you share the story of Farm to Fight Hunger?
Farm to Fight Hunger started when my husband and I moved to Northern California and started volunteer gleaning with a food rescue operation. This organization invited me to join their board, and at the same time I decided to take some farming classes at the local junior college. I graduated two years later with a degree in Sustainable Agriculture, and decided to grow what the food insecure communities needed. In Sonoma County, many of the food-insecure communities identify as Latinx, so we focus on growing culturally appropriate vegetables such as roma tomatoes, tomatillos, chiles, Mexican varietal squash, nopales, chayote and specialty herbs. We also have almost 400 chickens and all of the eggs are donated.
How do you implement sustainability initiatives in your work?
Our farm was designed to mimic a healthy ecosystem. We have been tearing out the vineyards that are on the land and adding compost and other amendments to remediate the soil to the healthiest possible state. The growing areas are surrounded by native, drought-tolerant hedgerow plantings of flowering plants, shrubs and fruit and nut trees. We also companion plant flowers amongst the vegetables for maximum diversity. The property is surrounded by swales to capture the rainwater and let it sink back in on our property without running off with top soil. We also have owl and bluebird boxes, and bees on the property. This enables a balanced, harmonious environment, which is crucial for the success of our operations.
How does the farm embody the slow food principles of good, clean, and fair?
Farm to Fight Hunger provides organically grown, local vegetables that are culturally appropriate, and pasture raised eggs, to our neighbors needing healthy food. We only have one part time employee, but we insist on paying a fair wage, with some extra compensation for health coverage.
Pictures | Farm to Fight Hunger
Learn more about Farm to Fight Hunger here.
Check out our Snail of Approval program here.