Scott and Heidi live and farm at the end of Limerick Lane just south of Healdsburg. Five years ago, Scott found just the right conditions for their Strong Arm Farm beneath the Adam and Eve Redwood Trees and above Old Redwood Highway. Heidi was still farming in Sebastopol at that time, but in 2010 she started co-farming full time with Scott, and they began selling at our Saturday Farmers’ Market in August of that year.
Heidi Herrmann grew up tending fruit trees and enjoying the harvest on her family’s 20-acre apple orchard in San Juan Bautista. During her high school years, Heidi worked in a nursery, and was encouraged by her father to make a career out of working with plants. When it was time to declare a major in college, the natural choice was Ornamental Horticulture at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. After graduation, she worked at Swanton Berry Farm. “I call it my MBA experience,” Heidi explained. “I learned about the growing, harvesting, marketing, and the distribution of produce from a company that was Certified Organic in 1987, the first organic Strawberry Farm to attain such a distinction in California.” In 1998, Swanton was the first Organic Farm to sign a contract with the United Farm Workers. “Swanton set a standard for business integrity, and I experienced all the work involved in Organic Certification. I was also involved with all of the aspects of farming, pest control, payroll, running a U-Pick operation, and selling at the Farmers’ Markets”.
Heidi also gained valuable experience working on a Biodynamic CSA and Dairy in The Netherlands. “It is the oldest continuously running biodynamic farm in Europe,” Heidi said. When she returned home, she began teaching in the Sustainable Agriculture Program at the Santa Rosa Junior College, and continued there for six years, while also farming in Sebastopol.
Heidi and Scott are in the process of applying for Organic Certification for Strong Arm Farm. Although many farmers have decided not to continue with the paperwork involved in acquiring or maintaining organic certification, Heidi sees the value in the certification. “Customers still ask, ‘Is your produce organic?’ And we want to have the certificate to back up the work we do.”
Part of their commitment to organic is in planting cover crops. When I visited their farm, much of their land was dormant or knee high in cover crops, but the surrounding native plants, mostly coyote bush, were alive with beneficial insects. The neighboring hedgerows are also home to quail, which brings challenges to the farm. “We have to set up row cover just to get the cover crop started,” Scott told me. “Otherwise the quail will eat the seedlings. We also use row cover to keep harmful insects away from transplants when they are first set in the ground.”
Scott Knipplemeir has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Trombone Performance, and he had a career in music before he decided to turn to farming. He was raised in the agricultural community of Fremont, Nebraska, where his family still runs a hog operation. Friends in Healdsburg helped Scott find his two and a half acres where he and Heidi cultivate an acre of row crops and tend the established fruit trees. Heidi has transplanted all of her perennial plants from her farm near Sebastopol, which include asparagus, artichokes, and flowers. Heidi also grows medicinal herbs for the Sonoma County Herb Exchange, including skullcap and (Tulsi) Holy Basil. (sonomaherbs.org)
Scott and Heidi are the only people in Sonoma County to hold a license from California Fish and Game for the harvesting of sea vegetables (aka sea kelp or sea weed.) They harvest, rinse, and package the kelp, and sell it at many local outlets. Heidi will be teaching a class in June about her harvesting, followed by a foray to the coast as part of the organization Daily Acts (dailyacts.org).
One of their commitments to organic farming is to use as few petroleum based products as possible. “Last year we used only 20 gallons of gasoline on the farm.” Scott explained. “We do all of our wood chipping, mowing, plowing, and bed building with one small BCS walk behind tractor.” That is possible when you have not just one, but four strong arms, and a lot of good farming experience and knowledge. We are looking forward to seeing Scott and Heidi back at the market on Opening Day, Saturday, May 5.
Mary Kelley is the manager of the Healdsburg Farmers Market. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.