Coast Range Seed
RFC Host Farm: Oshala Farm
RFC CHAPTER: Rogue Valley
As of fall 2017, Eric was finishing the second year of his small farm and vegetable seeds business, Coast Range Seed. He grows and sells organic vegetables for local produce departments, and a few chefs; He grows vegetable seed for small seed companies, and, going forward, his own seed list; and he is traveling and doing the communications work to build and energize networks for a seed and seed services business.
After two years apprenticing in Oregon, He returned to the North Bay, CA, initially working an organic produce job and a farm side job while looking for the place to start his own business. At the same time, he continued working on a project basis with the non-profit Southern Oregon Seed Growers Association and began to serve with the Open Source Seed Initiative. In spring of 2016 he took on a small loan and broke ground at my current farming site, a multi-use property near Petaluma, CA, called Monkey Ranch. Today, he sells both fresh organic produce and seeds under the business name Coast Range Seed, often focusing on specific varieties and diving in to the collections of specific breeders he wants to support.
"It is probably always a challenge, or even deluded, to think we can develop a new site, produce crops, line up collaborators, develop a customer base -- and all the rest, alone -- at a comfortable profit out of the gate. For me, though, at the time of this writing, things are going well when I consider the whole. At this point, my overall goals are to integrate on-farm production and traditional seed retailing in creative and rewarding ways, stabilize my finances and ag business foundations, and to stay the human course-- balancing health and wholeness with farm work (a challenge) and building fulfilling personal and professional relationships of support."
Eric has been motivated by a passion for agriculture at both the 'farm' and 'systems' levels. He follows the evolution of the food sovereignty movement internationally and is drawn to be politically active as a farmer-producer, and to organically organize with others.
"As a seedsman, I want to see more farmers succeed, making lasting inroads in the farm viability question. I imagine this success will have less to do with any particular seeds or products, and much more to do with how our food system relationships and structures either limit or enable the potential and viability of small- and medium-scale farms. So those are goals at the broadest scope."
On the farm and technical side, he is more excited than ever about soil nutrition and ecology, and its relation to crop quality and different marketing channels. He feels lucky to get to study these ideas as an independent producer, and that, even as a small farm, his soil experiments can get out there, and be eaten.
"RFC influenced me on multiple levels, I feel like the Rogue Farm Corps sets its participants on a course towards success. I would recommend it highly as a practical introduction to farming, to get solid on fundamentals... even while encountering all the details and curiosities of diversified farms. Whether your bring an academic agricultural background or you were awakened through good food and compelled to try out being a producer. In both cases (and more), RFC's format seems a natural way to facilitate this process of work exploration and personal growth, along with all the skill building and applied experience an intern expects.
I got a lot of out of the peer network, and also the breadth and cross-learning between the different farms in the region. It helps, in fact, that the program coordinator doesn't always just comfort you too... Farming is harder than we wish it were, and this is a great, socially-supported environment to learn how that actually feels to you, in August, underpaid. It turns out it's good preparation, mentally and emotionally, to have encountered these realities early in one's prospective ag career. In addition to all that, you'll likely get what you expected, too -- experiential training with farmer mentors, inside a real, working business (different than many other training programs), and exposure to a range of modern organic farming styles. Find what you're drawn to, and where you're repelled. Four years later, as a hustling, occasionally high, occasionally burnt out beginning farmer, I think of my apprenticeships often, and fondly. It was hard, and is valuable experience. If all fails, and you succeed in finding that farming 'per se' is not for you, take heart that friendships from RFC will outlast the abbreviated farm career; If you do continue, and go deeper down the rabbit hole, these friends, often but a phone call away, will be voices of support for you along the ride, and your's for them."