Ask anyone in the agricultural space in Sonoma County if they know Wendy Krupnick, and the answer will likely be a resounding “Yes!” A longtime resident of the county, Wendy is an environmental activist, seed saver, educator, volunteer, and community builder. She also owns and operates Chiatri de Laguna Farm in Santa Rosa, on the grounds of the former D. Grossi Egg Ranch (a charter member of Farm Trails), and is the volunteer coordinator for Farm Trails’ annual fundraiser, the Gravenstein Apple Fair. An indefatigable advocate for local sustainable agriculture, Wendy has inspired countless people, including all of us at Farm Trails. We are honored to have her as a member of our community.
How did you get interested in farming?
As a student in UC Santa Cruz In the early 1970s, I was studying biology and nutrition. During that time, there was an energy crisis and I turned my attention to food security and started growing my own food. This led to my enrolling in the Farm & Garden training program at UCSC. It felt very important to me that people knew where their food came from and stayed connected to the quality of the food they eat, the environmental impact of the food grown and the sustainability of the system. In late 1999 I moved to “Chiatri USA,” loving the land and the way Dino and Thema Grossi tended to it. I began to dream of one day purchasing it. I felt the farm needed a land steward who would bring its vitality back to life and bring the community in to enjoy it.
What is the history of your farm?
Dino and Thelma Grossi purchased the land in the mid-1940s and began building structures in 1947. Grossi was a chicken rancher and a charter member of Sonoma County Farm Trails. Grossi sold his eggs directly to the public at the same farm stand I operate today. Grossi considered his farm a backyard operation of 4,000 chickens. When other egg producers went into mass production, Grossi did things the same way his father did, the old-fashioned way such as egg candling done by hand. D. Grossi Egg Ranch operated from the 1950s through 1985. He still sold other products like walnuts from the farm stand through the early 2000s.
What have you done to the farm since taking ownership in 2018?
The farm is 5 acres. The front fields were turned into annual vegetable production. In the fall I lightly till in cover crop seed and in spring I shallowly till in cover crop before planting summer crops. The soil here is a mix of loam and some clay and the well has been reliable. I built a rain garden in the front and planted native plants and created hedgerows on the property for beauty and biodiversity and to attract beneficial insects. The back field next to the orchard is open and grassy, which has been home to goats and lambs. I brought goats in a few years ago to help control the poison oak and blackberry under the eucalyptus. I move animals through the area on a rotational grazing to maximize their impact.
What do you grow on your farm?
I am really interested in different varieties and was the variety trials coordinator at a seed company I worked for. Some, like the Bertolli and Vashon Oxheart tomatoes, came from fruit I got a few years ago. I support the Community Seed Exchange at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Sebastopol because I think it is a great community resource for seeds. I start all my vegetables from seed here on the farm and I am always looking for interesting varieties. I only pick when the food is ripe, not before, which is important for things like sweet red peppers as they have their full flavor and color at the farm stand. There are 23 fruit trees on the farm that stock the farmstand. Peaches, aprium, plums, persimmon, pears, and eight varieties of apples. There are also seven historic trees on the property including Kadota fig, Gravenstein apple, peach, and walnut as well as boysenberries, which I have expanded. I also grow strawberries and melons. Main vegetable crops include tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, summer squash, winter squash, pumpkins, potatoes, kale, sweet corn and small amounts of lettuce, beets, basil, rhubarb and cut flowers. The farm stand season is usually from July – October, though produce is available in small quantities in other months as well. People are welcome to contact via email to learn what is available.
What do you find most rewarding about farming?
I love offering a venue for community with the people who visit my farm stand. I enjoy matching customers in conversation, listening, networking, and connecting people to the food and the land. Working with plants is the most rewarding. Reading the plants health by tuning in, being intuitive with them and paying attention to how they are responding to their environment and the soil. I follow the cycles and patterns that repeat year after year and adjust as needed. I am always learning by observation, experience and connecting to the plants themselves. I pay attention to the signs they reveal about the soil, the weather, and especially how plants are responding to climate change. That is something I am really trying to understand these days. I enjoy being in relationship with nature and a land steward for sustainability and community.
How else are you involved in the ag community?
I have been a member of Sonoma County Farm Trails for the 5 years since I started the farm. It felt important to bring the farm back to Farm Trails, as the previous owners, Dino and Thelma Grossi, were original charter members in 1973. I want to honor the legacies of those before me who loved the land. Over the years, I have been adjunct faculty at SRJC Shone Farm and have been involved with CAFF (Community Alliance with Family Farmers) for 23 years, and current Acting President for 10 years. I started volunteering in 2010 with the Gravenstein Apple Fair and have been volunteer coordinator since 2013. The people I work closely with in these community organizations I consider family.
If you could share one piece of advice to a new farmer, what would it be?
Pace yourself, attention to details, keep records, yoga daily.