On a warm, sunny day in early May, I drove out from downtown Cloverdale on River Road to Lantern Farm.
Rebecca Bozzelli and her husband, Nick, lease several acres from a local family that bought the riverfront property in the 1950s.
As I arrived, Rebecca and her helper, Ron, were setting tomato plants and running irrigation lines on a 2-acre plot that had just been tilled with the farm’s recently purchased tractor.
Growing up in northern New Jersey, Rebecca didn’t plan on becoming a farmer, although her mom’s family had farming roots. Most folks in Livingston worked in nearby New York City, so Rebecca got a business degree from the University of Rhode Island.
Starting with Bozell (a PR and advertising agency) in 1996, she got in on the ground floor of the emerging field of web design.
After an additional three years in Australia with Bozell and a one-year stint at The New York Times in 2001, where she worked on an early version of their website, Rebecca decided that corporate life wasn’t for her.
She and a friend packed their stuff in a car and headed for California, camping in national parks along the way.
She landed at UC Santa Cruz and started working at its Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS), a program that was started in 1967 by Master Gardener Alan Chadwick as a student garden project on the Santa Cruz campus.
It was at CASFS where Rebecca was exposed to the principles that guide her farming philosophy today: a commitment to creating — as the Lantern Farm Facebook page states — clean, fair and healthy food for the community.
Next stop was a move north to Sonoma County and a job at the Sonoma Ecology Center in its Sonoma Garden Park, which according to the center’s webpage is “a working model of sustainable gardening, offering workshops, summer camp for kids, and fresh produce for sale.”
Rebecca and her family came to Cloverdale in 2013 when she was offered a job as farm manager at Preston Farm & Winery. (We first met at Preston’s booth at the Cloverdale Market.)
The desire to be her own boss led to the establishment of Lantern Farm three years ago.
As we toured the farm, I got a sense of Rebecca’s commitment to the health of the land and her satisfaction in managing the many crops that she is cultivating.
In addition to the 2-acre parcel, there is a half-acre area on the north side of the driveway that will be planted in cover crops.
The well-established market garden is a quarter-acre plot surrounded by a variety of fruit trees that was the first parcel she began to work in 2016.
The fruit trees were already on the property, but needed to be pruned and tended to bring out their full potential.
Walking around the perimeter, she pointed out a row of tomato plants covered by frost protection to keep them warm and happy.
Rows of vegetables are interspersed with rows of flowers to keep the garden ecology in balance.
In this age of increasingly mechanized farming, small family farms like Rebecca’s are one way to ensure that the land remains healthy and that communities have access to an abundance of fresh healthy produce that is locally produced.
Rebecca is especially proud to have received one of the first Snail of Approval Farm awards from Slow Food Sonoma County North in recognition of her efforts to improve the local food system right here in Cloverdale.
We are happy to have Lantern Farm as one of our vendors.
Come check out Rebecca’s booth at the Cloverdale Tuesday Farmers’ Market 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 email@example.com.