Jeff and Annie Main: Good Humus Produce 1976
During a meeting in the organization and creation of the Davis Food Coop Martin Barnes and Henry Esbenshade asked who would like to help start a Farmers Market in town. Thus began the ground work for the Davis Farmers Market. Martin Barnes, Henry Esbenshade, Jeff and Annie Main opened the market in 1976. In that same year they also decided to go into partnership together along with Kathy Barsotti, Martin’s wife and began farming vegetables and the start of Good Humus Produce. The name came from the Good Humor Man...good humor, good humus is what makes a good farm!

Good Humus started with ¾ of an acre of fall vegetables in Woodland, the next year moved their large garden and farmed 3 acres of produce. The third year they together farmed 10 acres of vegetables, 1 acre of boysenberries in Woodland and 10 acres of apricots in Winters. At the end of the third year Good Humus split into three separate farms. Henry Esbenshade farmed in Winters as Esbenshade Orchards, Martin and Kathy began their farm in Capay known today by three names: Capay Fruits and Vegetables, Capay Organics and Farm Fresh To You. Meanwhile,  Jeff and Annie Main kept farming in Woodland under the Good Humus name.

I would like to tell you a story a story of the organic movement here in Yolo County…..
A long time ago, there was a social movement. Some know it as the Sixties. I think of it as the Back-to-the-Land movement—our awakening to our impact on the physical world and to our responsibility as caretakers. America was getting shaken up by young baby boomers who were asking their parents many questions that were not  expected from the supposedly “seen but not heard” child. It was an exciting time. We  felt like we could make a difference, that we had the power to change the world with the collective passion of the movement. It was the time when cooperative coed housing and cooperative buying clubs were popping up. We were buying food together for bulk discounts, with “food for people not for profit” as our mantra. There were only a few farmers’ markets in the entire state of California. We thought if we were going to go back to the land and become self-sufficient communities, it made sense to bring back the central town marketplace, where we could buy and sell our daily food. So farmers’ markets started to sprout slowly, too. Only a few very old and very young farmers would show up—five or so each Saturday morning. But it was a good thing, and the communities and farmers saw the benefits, as did the buying clubs which were turning into co-op stores. With the help of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, the organic movement surfaced at the same time. Some of those old-timers at the market started showing the young farmers how to grow the old way, because they knew. They were around before World War II and farmed before the chemical invasion. Looking back I think of Dorothy and Toto on the Yellow Brick Road, taking the path to see a different world. Now I see that we actually were part of a movement that was building the yellow road, using the passion for change as the base, and the energy and optimism of youth to create an organic movement and to build our organic farm from the ground up.
Brick by brick, more bricks for the road, and there grew more organic farms in the Valley. There grew new organic markets around the state, smaller organic stores. Women found their place at the produce terminal. Veritable Vegetable, the largest organic wholesaler house in San Francisco, was all women! Organizations supporting the organic movement arose, student farms at U.C. Davis and U.C. Santa Cruz became stronger. The trucks started to roll, hauling that “holey” organic produce to market, where it stood on its own in a little space alongside conventional produce. Our foot was in the door and folks liked what they saw. Brick by brick, onward grew the yellow road.

Community Supported Agriculture
A Japanese concept to buy clean food direct from the farmer—grew into the CSA movement in the nineties in California. People found food delivered to their neighborhood and a personal letter from “their” farmer. The relationship became
tighter, more intimate, with the families and the farmer both getting fed more than just produce. It was soul feeding! The farmer became bolder and bolder in those letters, finding a place to write about the daily life in the fields, trying to tell “their” families what it takes to get the food to their dinner plates. The organic farms in the Capay Valley are now delivering thousands of “veggie” boxes to Yolo County residents, and on into Sacramento, San Francisco, and the surrounding counties.

Building a New Food System
Many folks have written about sustainable organic agriculture over the years, making heads turn and hearts pound with emotion, adding to the Yellow Brick Road. At this moment, journalist Michael Pollan has become a world-famous food detective, exposing what goes on behind closed doors in the meat-processing houses. This is having a huge effect on our massive road-paving project. Michael’s ultimate wisdom  for us is to make sure what we eat is something our grandmothers would recognize. Buy it fresh, buy it local, and know where it comes from. What better advice is there? What better “diet” could we choose? It eliminates the fast foods, the processed foods, the fatty foods, the sugary foods. This could be the very simple answer to the American heart problem and the diabetes that is soaring in today’s children.

Now people are frequenting the farmers’ markets, asking vendors where their farms are, wanting to eat within 100 miles of home, working hard to understand what they can do to be a part of the local food movement. The passion is rising, each person a golden brick. The change is being made by each of us in the simple act of where we buy our food, who and what we support. Buying food has become a radical choice, a very political act that can change the world one meal at a time. We are now realizing the wealth of our local food system, the importance that it can play in our lives. Can we be sure it will be there next year? Will there be a new generation of farmers for our children? Can we depend on the farmers to keep farming in Yolo County, on some of the best, richest soil in the world? Experts are telling us that our food will be coming from someplace besides home, they say  agriculture will disappear from the American portfolio because it is not economically  sustainable, but some small parts of the industry will survive…. The main entries on that list include golf courses, nurseries and turf farms…and Americans will never notice as the percentage of their food that is imported rises to 100 percent.

Well, farming is not sustainable in today’s economic market. If a want-to-be farmer  tries to go out and buy farmland, build a farm and a life, and pay the mortgage from farming alone, farming is not sustainable. As it becomes more difficult for the city dweller to purchase a house, it becomes impossible for the farmer to purchase land  and build the infrastructure to farm.

Who will Raise Our Children’s Food?
What does all this mean for the concerned, turn-over-a-new-leaf person who wants to shop fresh and local? It means that it may be a longer Yellow Brick Road than we first imagined. Young farmers are not able to buy land in Yolo County to start their farm for you. They are moving to places where the prices are “cheaper.” But in reality, there isn’t much number-one soil around for cheap, anywhere. Development—be it golf courses or large rural estates—means agricultural land is not to be owned and worked by the hands of the farmer who wants to be the caretaker of the land and food producer for the people. Do we believe this is our fate? Do we leave these questions to the whims of society and hope for the best? With the recognition of the possibilities of passion and change, the  strength of the empowered individual and the collective community—I believe the Yellow Brick Road is ours to build, and that we can set the path’s destination to the landscape we want to live in. As this movement has been building, there has also been a new concept of organic agriculture as a “sustainable” agriculture. The definition is still being  worked out, but I see it meaning that all aspects of the farm will be maintained and the vitality of the farm will be upheld and improved from generation to generation—building soil health and native habitat for biodiversity, to create a balance for healthy crop production. Sustainable agriculture must also include the life of the caretakers and their ability to do the work that creates the possibility of continuation without depletion. It must include a basic level of land security for each generation. The work of the farm operators must leave room for personal and spiritual growth. It cannot be so constant that it is deadening. The farms need a solid labor force that is healthy and not deadened by the work or living conditions. All the workers need job appreciation and family stability.

Planning for the Long Term
We are now coming to the understanding that sustainability means we need to think beyond one generation. We all need our family farms to be passed on to young farmers. We need farmers to strengthen their farm’s infrastructure, to build soil fertility and use restorative farming practices to return balance to our eco-systems. Farming must therefore be made affordable and desirable for farmers. For the community, the benefits of preserving our local agriculture will stretch out over many generations of farmers. Land and food are resources that belong to all generations. The community  is essential in securing the future of local land and farm resources and food production. Securing farms as a component of an innovative local food system requires the financial support of the community. We hope to also inspire you to see the long view. We ask for  your personal commitment to a vision that engages our community in locally supported  food and farm security for generations to come.

  The People Who Started It All


Zach & Nicole
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