Seven years ago I wrote a profile of James Birch. I met him at the Santa Monica Farmers Market. I was impressed by his hard work, determination and the quality of his produce. Since then, a great deal has happened in his life. He and his wife Dawn continue to work the farm, the delightfully named, Flora Bella Farms.
What has changed is the rain. When I wrote the profile in 2014, California was in the grip of a drought. Since then, there have been years with rain and without. But once again, in 2021, California is struggling with an epic drought. The issues are similar to what they were in 2014, although the situation could prove to be worse, depending on....well, the rain.
I am reposting the profile because the issues are still very relevant. I was motivated to share the profile because an email went out July 23, 2021 from James and Dawn saying that because there was no water, there would be no crops to bring to the Wednesday Santa Monica Market:
"The farm depends on snow melt from the Sierra Nevada Mountains and there was no snow or rain this year. We will keep you aware of our attempts to find water and let you know when we will be back. Until then be well and please do your part to help save our planet. Thanks, Dawn and James Birch"
Happily, today I received this email:
Much of the time when I'm at the farmers market I'm so intent on what I want to buy I'm focused on the produce only noticing the farmers behind the flat tables loaded up with fresh leafy greens, stone fruit and root vegetables when I pay.
|Flora Bella Farm holding pond 2001|
|Flora Bella Farm holding pond 2014|
Years ago I hung out with one of the farmers at the Santa Monica Farmers Market because we were talking about doing a cookbook together (he would talk about the "farm," I would talk about the "table").
James Birch has a farm in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains near Fresno. The farm has a lovely name: Flora Bella Farm. But these days the farm has a problem. The area where he lives is called Three Rivers. Right now there are no rivers.
|Flora Bella Farm 2014|