Patti Bess: Soil Sisters Farm offers local blooms through trying times
Beauty nourishes us even when we’re distracted and not paying that much attention. Flowers bring a smile to most everyone’s face, and they feed us in ways that folks, including myself, have no words to express.
In these uncertain times do you need a bouquet in the center of your dinner table, of your life? Or maybe you know a friend who needs a little cheering up? Maybe we all need a little flower power in this time of social unrest and economic hardship!
The Soil Sisters grow deliciously enticing flowers at their one and half acre farm off of Lake Vera Purdon Road. On a cool morning last week I joined Maisie Ganz and Willow Hein at their farm. Monday is picking and flower arranging day when they deliver to two of their largest customers, the Tahoe Food Hub and Truckee Natural Foods. The Soil Sisters have leased the same land for eleven years from the Riley family. As they developed their business, the women learned to simplify and get clear on what they really wanted — to specialize in their favorite crop, flowers.
Building their farm was only part of what they set out to achieve. They also made a commitment to valuing relationships to oneself, one another and the land.
Like most young people, Maisie and Willow didn’t know what came next after college. Willow, who grew up in Nevada County, enrolled in the Center for Agro Ecology and Food Sustainability at UC Santa Cruz campus. There she first got her hands in the dirt and learned about the politics of local food. Many of the young farmers in Nevada County got their start in this program. She then worked as an intern on a homestead in Camptonville as well as other local farms.
After college Maisie travelled and worked on farms in New Mexico and Boston. She also trained at Hidden Villa Farm in the South Bay where she built the knowledge and confidence to think of farming as a lifestyle and career.
Both women settled in Nevada County in 2008 just as the farm movement here was catching fire. Both found themselves working near each other and became instant friends; and eventually farming/business partners.
These two women are well versed in big life changes. “We have weathered disappointments, crop failures, injuries, horrible living conditions, sexism and relationship break-ups. Basically farming trained us in flexibility,” Willow commented.
Recently Maisie has been learning to incorporate parenthood into her work life, or more accurately, blending work into her parenting life. “I am proud of the creation and development of our business over the years. But more importantly, we both learned so much about conflict resolution, self-care, and how to truly live a simpler lifestyle.”
A significant part of their business has been floral design for weddings and other special events. The cancellation of this year’s wedding season is the biggest challenge to their farm thus far as it made up more than half of their income.
Adjusting as they always have, Maisie and Willow improved their website and flower subscription program (CSA). They now offer as many options as possible to provide fresh, local and sustainable flowers to their community. Plenty of picture examples of mixed bouquets as well as dahlia and sunflower specialties are on the website. Sliding scale payment options are available on all flower subscriptions. They are also collaborating with First Rain Farm to provide a convenient pick up location at that farm as well as in Nevada City throughout the summer.
An easy to use ordering system is on their website at soilsisters.org. You can also find them on Facebook and Instagram.
Patti Bess is a freelance writer and cookbook author. Her work has appeared in more than 30 magazines. She lives in Grass Valley.
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