As we chatted about my working on this column at a recent Tuesday market, Kristin Morrison said, “Nobody knows who I am.”
“Let’s change that,” I said.
Kristin has been garden manager at Preston Farm & Winery since 2017, when she took over the position from Rebecca Bozzelli, now of Lantern Farm.
Kristin came to farming by a circuitous route. Growing up in Georgia, she got a B.S. degree in anthropology from the University of Georgia in 2008, where, after graduation, she worked on several anthropology and archaeology projects, discovering an affinity for dirt.
Realizing that she would have to take a m--aster’s degree to pursue a career, which would likely result in teaching, which she didn’t want to do, she switched gears and started working in food service.
A move to Hutchinson, Kansas, in 2009 opened her eyes to the lack of availability of fresh, affordable food, which you think would have been a given in an area where most of the folks were farmers.
But corn and soybeans ruled in Hutchinson, as they do in much of the Midwest.
As she noticed the choices that most people made in their daily diets — think supersized — she was convinced that there was a better alternative.
Another move in 2010 took her to San Jose and then in 2011 to Guerneville, where she worked at Crista Luedtke’s Big Bottom Market.
(She was responsible for making those famous biscuits that helped put the Market on the culinary map when Oprah tried them and named them one of “Her Favorite Things” in 2016.)
In 2014, she became the farm assistant at Preston, working under Rebecca, who she still considers a mentor.
The day I visited the farm, I drove a familiar route over Dutcher Creek Road down into Dry Creek Valley. Kristin was waiting in the parking lot when I arrived and we headed out on the golf cart to the newest garden acreage — formerly planted in grapes, which were torn out to make room for rows of winter crops.
Preston Farm & Winery is comprised of 125 total acres, 65 devoted to wine grapes and about 12 to garden. The rest of the acreage is given over to chickens and sheep, plus some acres intentionally left empty, to promote natural diversity.
Preston is farmed organically (certified organic in 2002) and does follow biodynamic practices in some areas, although it is not officially certified at present.
A map of the property in the tasting room shows a crazy quilt of named blocks on land that nestles in the triangle around where the Peña Creek, which flows out of the hills southwest of the valley, and Dry Creek meet.
Kristin pointed to a weedy patch that she told me had a lot of pumpkins hidden within, which will be part of the U-Pick Pumpkin Patch later this fall.
Back on the golf cart, a journey around the back of the winery building took us to the original garden space, anchored by hoop houses that still nurture seedlings.
The three-acre North Garden is down the dirt road toward the entrance to the property. We passed rows of olive trees that Kristin said used to be picked by hand and now are harvested in combination with machinery to increase efficiency.
A hunk of fresh bread from grain grown on property, dunked in olive oil produced from the 1,500 trees scattered about the property, is a treat.
In the North Garden, we found Kristin’s wife, Melanie, picking eggplant for the next day’s markets. Kristin and Melanie met at Preston and bonded over a shared love of the land. They married this summer at the Luther Burbank Center in Santa Rosa, a fitting venue for two people committed to nurturing the bounty of the area in which they live.
Looking up toward the Warm Springs Dam and surrounding hills made me realize how lucky I am to be a small part of the farm experience. Preston is one of the original vendors at the Cloverdale Tuesday Farmers’ Market and also sells in Healdsburg on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
If you are interested in finding more about the Preston story, a good place to start is Preston’s website, prestonfarmandwinery.com. Come out to the market and say hi to Kristin every Tuesday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the empty lot next to Plank Coffee.
Karen Allan is the manager of the Cloverdale Tuesday Farmers’ Market. She’s rarely seen without Cora. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.