Farm Trails member since 1980
Oak Hill Farm, 15101 Sonoma Highway, Glen Ellen | oakhillfarm.net
With its iconic red barn, picturesque fields of flowers and vegetables, and stunning setting against the Mayacamas Mountains, Oak Hill Farm looks like the quintessential Sonoma Valley farm. But its roots go deeper than its agricultural splendor, as the 700-acre ranch on the eastern side of the Valley of the Moon is a landmark in the open space preservation movement. The farm dates back to 1965, when Otto and Anne Teller first started raising sheep, then turned to flowers and eventually adding produce, prioritizing organic practices and biodiversity. Amid this, the Tellers were also founding members of Sonoma Land Trust (sonomalandtrust.org), whose mission is to conserve scenic, natural, agricultural, and open land for the future of Sonoma County. It’s a goal that aligns with ours at Farm Trails, and we’re honored to have Oak Hill Farm as a member, carrying on the Tellers’ legacy. Today, the farm is run by Anne’s daughters Arden and Kate, and granddaughter Melissa Bucklin-Good and her partner Jimi Good. In this Member Spotlight, we chat with Arden about the farm’s past and present, and find out her favorite fruit along the way!
What is the history of your farm?
Our inspiration comes from my mother and Melissa’s grandmother, Anne Teller. Mom loved the old farm stands she knew as a child growing up in California, so started one at Oak Hill Farm. It began as an honor system—just boxes of zucchini and corn and a cigar box to leave money in. That little germ of an idea has grown into the business that the Red Barn Store is today. We all loved growing vegetables and eating great food growing up, so farming continues that tradition.
We continue to be inspired by Anne, who knew that “people will come and go, but the land remains,” so she did her best to take care of it. The enemy is development—houses and communities in the wildlands, edging out the native flora and fauna. Anne and her husband, Otto Teller, were instrumental in starting the Sonoma Land Trust in the 1980s, and Oak Hill Farm was the first piece of land to be placed in a conservation easement with that organization, thereby never to be developed. We are passionate about carrying Anne and Otto’s vision forward.
What do you do/grow?
Seriously, just about everything you could grow in Sonoma County. Our favorites are Mara des Bois strawberries—lovely French perfumed berries the size of a fingernail.
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
The incredible appreciation from our clients who walk into the Red Barn Store and are instantly delighted by the gorgeous bounty. We love our hard-working staff. We love knowing that we are harvesting beautiful products while continuously regenerating the soil, protecting wildlife corridors and watersheds.
What do you value about being a member of Farm Trails?
Farm Trails connects us to the agricultural community and the agriculturally curious in Sonoma County. They help get the word out about Oak Hill Farm and the Red Barn Store.
What are your hopes for the future of your farm and Sonoma County ag?
I have been around long enough to remember when Sonoma Valley was mostly planted in walnut and prune orchards, hay fields, and old Italian vineyards. It was an agricultural valley filled with farmers. Of course, nothing stays the same, and vineyards keep the valley agricultural, but the ominous shadow of development, luxury housing, and overpopulation cloud the future. My hope would be to keep the Sonoma Valley agricultural, organic, with plenty of undeveloped open space.
What advice would you give to a new farmer?
Strengthen your muscles, learn to see (really see and observe), find a niche, invest lavishly in your soil and continue investing, don’t use poisons, remember that your farm is part of a whole ecosystem, and consider the wildlife, birds, and insects.