Jennifer York, Bamboo Sourcery

Jennifer York

One of the most remarkable things about Sonoma County is its incredible agricultural diversity. A nursery specializing in bamboo plants? Yes, we’ve got that—and of course it’s world-class! That nursery is Bamboo Sourcery, a horticultural paradise rooted in the back-to-the-land movement that has evolved with the times to provide the materials and expertise for top-notch garden design and installation, while also inspiring and educating many. In this Member Spotlight, we chat with second-generation owner Jennifer York about Bamboo Sourcery’s past and present, and her hopes for the future.

Bamboo Sourcery, 666 Wagnon Road, Sebastopol | bamboosourcery.com

Farm Trails member since 2009

How did you start your business?

My late father, Gerald Bol, who was an artist by trade and horticulturalist by avocation, began Bamboo Sourcery as a hobby. He bought this land in 1966. He and my mother (Joy) were a part of the “back to the land” movement. Gerald discovered his love of bamboo in the late 1970s and early ‘80’s. He became active in the American Bamboo Society, and traveled all over the world collecting bamboo species.

When Gerald died in 1996 at the age of 56, Bamboo Sourcery suddenly fell into my lap. I actually knew nothing about bamboo or about running a business, and boy, was there a steep learning curve! But it gave me something to really sink my teeth into after the early death of my parents. I too became enthralled with bamboo—a truly diverse and fascinating group of plants.

Since then my husband, Joe Ruffatto, has joined me at Bamboo Sourcery, and together with the help of many wonderful employees, we have built it into the specialty bamboo nursery it is today. Over the years we have continued to sculpt a charming terraced paradise in the fertile soil of West Sonoma County, with extensive demonstration gardens that show the stunning beauty of mature bamboo and provide source material for propagation.

What do you grow?

We grow and sell hundreds of species of bamboo, primarily for living privacy screens and ornamental landscaping highlights. Our inventory is tailored to bamboo species that thrive in the temperate climate of the greater Bay Area, serving the landscaping needs of customers here. We sell all sizes, from small starter plants to mature specimens, and everything from small ground cover bamboo to towering timber bamboo. We have a wide selection of “clumping” bamboo, as well as “runners” which are particularly good for screening but need containment.

We offer expert consultation on all aspects of design, species selection, containment, installation and long term maintenance of bamboo. We now do a lot of these consultations virtually. In addition, our well loved and extensive website offers educational resources for customers, including “how-to” videos. We have always made customer service and education a priority. That has paid off in the long run. 

Increasingly, we are providing design and bamboo installation services. This has become a vital part of our business. Joe (with a background in general contracting) along with my brother Josh, quote these jobs. Josh is our delivery driver and installation field foreman.

What do you find most rewarding about your work?

Sharing our land and the love of bamboo with people. I love watching people arrive here and be so moved by the magical beauty of Bamboo Sourcery. It gives us pleasure to connect with customers and give them unexpectedly outstanding customer service, and to help them create their own backyard havens of bamboo beauty and sanctuary.

We have appreciated the independence and flexibility of being self-employed, which gives us the opportunity to build and maintain a business that honors our values. It has been a joy and a privilege to raise our family here while we work the land and cultivate bamboo, witnessing the seasonal cycles of nature and spending our days with like-minded people. It’s hard work, but very satisfying!

What do you value about being a member of Farm Trails?

Farm Trails supports a diverse community of small-scale farmers and specialty nurseries. The plethora of farmers here is one of the things that make Sonoma County so unique. We join Farm Trails for the marketing opportunities it provides and because we are dedicated to investing in our agricultural lands and our agricultural community.

What are your hopes for the future of your business and/or Sonoma County ag?

One thing we are running into is that we are outgrowing our current site. It is a beautiful and charming place, but operating a nursery on such steep terrain is both challenging and expensive. We believe Bamboo Sourcery could be even more profitable on less challenging terrain.

As we move toward retirement, we are beginning our search for an energetic and enthusiastic steward who can provide a future home and leadership for this world-class bamboo farm and nursery. Ideally we will find someone who has land available (or the ability to purchase or lease land) on which to move the production and retail aspects of the farm.

We really hope Bamboo Sourcery continues beyond us! And we believe Bamboo Sourcery is an amazing opportunity for a farmer/entrepreneur seeking a hands-on and unique nursery business.

What advice would you share with someone starting out in your line of business?

Have passion about what you do. Enjoy and appreciate life everyday. Pace yourself and take exquisite care of your body. Ask for help, hire help. And as Joe and I are discovering rather late in the game, start early with developing an exit strategy and a plan for retirement!

If you are looking to become a farmer and have land resources, please contact us! We are eager to mentor you into the world of bamboo!

Photos by Lisa Rose