Sonoma’s farm girls: Meet Rachel Kohn Obut
Just when I thought Sonoma couldn’t get any cooler, I realized that in our teeny community we have so many young, beautiful, female farmers. How amazing is that? I consider myself to be very lucky to call many of them my friends. Since I am fortunate enough to know these super hard working gals, I thought you might like to know another of your fabulous female farmers. This week, meet Rachel Kohn Obut.
Kristin: How did you decide to pursue agriculture as a career?
Rachel: My interest in farming started at age 11 when I spent a couple of weeks at a Quaker Farm Camp in Pennsylvania, and loved milking cows and picking strawberries so much that I returned there to work as a counselor. Years later, I took off a semester from college in southern France, and had another great experience. After graduating from college, I went straight to work as an intern on a farm, and haven’t looked back. I never really decided to pursue agriculture as a career but everything keeps leading me in that direction.”
Kristin: It’s unusual for a young women to be a ‘farmer.’ What hurdles have you faced?
Rachel: The majority of the hurdles that I face in farming have nothing to do with being a female farmer, but there have certainly been times when I am dealing with men who don’t seem to take me that seriously.
Kristin: What sort of training or schooling have you had?
Rachel: I have a BA in Neuroscience from Oberlin College, but no significant schooling in agriculture. I have taken a couple of classes relevant to agriculture here and there, and attend workshops and conferences whenever I have the chance. Most of my training in farming has come from working as an intern at many different farms, and finally starting Lunita Farm, and learning whatever I need to along the way. After spending the first 21 years of my life in traditional schooling systems, it’s been great to break out of that, and learn by doing.
Kristin: What are your favorite parts of farming as a career?
Rachel: I love the huge variety of work, from field work, to harvesting, to sales and marketing, to construction projects, to equipment maintenance; there is always something new and challenging to learn. I love growing good food, and being part of the wonderful network of growers, eaters, and chefs. People are so excited about getting high quality locally grown beautiful vegetables!
Kristin: What’s the toughest part?
Rachel: The work never really stops; sometimes it’s hard to know when to stop working and when to keep going. Harvesting on cold, rainy mornings is one of the hardest parts for me. I also feel challenged by the high investments required of farming and the lack of affordability of land.
Kristin: Tell me about your farm and where you sell what you’ve grown.
Rachel: Lunita Farm started in 2010 on two-thirds of an acre in Carneros, and this year, transitioned to a much more fertile piece of land closer in to town. I grow a wide variety of vegetables, as well as strawberries, melons, and fresh herbs. The majority of my produce is sold through a Community Supported Agriculture program, where members sign up to receive weekly or bi-weekly boxed of produce all season long. I also sell to some restaurants in town, including El Dorado Kitchen, Epicurean Connection, and Depot Hotel. In 2013, I’m going to be transitioning again, to work as farm manager for Sweetwater Spectrum, and plan to continue running my CSA program at The Sweetwater Urban Farm.
Kristin: What are your favorite things to grow?
Rachel: I love growing strawberries, peppers, beets, carrots, and garlic.
Kristin: What do you think is the future of farming and food in America?
Rachel: Americans are becoming increasingly passionate about fresh and local produce, and tons of small farms seem to be sprouting up everywhere. I hope this trend will continue.
Kristin: We’re pretty lucky to live in Sonoma with all of this wonderful produce. What do you wish we could grow here that we can’t?
Rachel: Avocados, mangos, and chocolate!
Kristin: Do you like cook with your produce? What is your favorite thing, and can you give us the recipe?
Rachel: Sure, I love to cook my own vegetables. Mostly I just cook up various mixtures of stir-fried vegetables, soups, or salads, no recipes needed, but I also love a good pesto. Here’s a recipes for Spicy Cilantro Pesto.”
Readers can contact Rachel at 494.9210 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Find more information regarding Lunita Farms or their CSA at Lunitafarm@gmail.com.
Kristin Jorgensen is one of Sonoma’s most passionate, food obsessed residents. In this weekly column, she covers all the delicious happenings, foodie events and restaurants in Sonoma, the rest of Wine Country and beyond. Email her with comments, questions, or your food related events at email@example.com.