Rebecca Bozzelli of Lantern Farm
Twenty years ago, I hopped in a car with friends in New Jersey and drove West. I landed in San Francisco, and have been growing (food) ever since. After a farming apprenticeship at U.C. Santa Cruz in 2012 and a few farming stints in Sonoma County, I branched out on my own to start Lantern Farm in 2017. Lantern Farm is three acres of food and flowers tucked between the Russian River and the hills of Cloverdale. While farming is my passion, I equally enjoy sharing the fruits of my labor with my community. I grow a wide range of vegetables and flowers such as heirloom tomatoes, broccolini, kale, lettuce, chard, chrysanthemums, sunflowers, ranunculus and much more.
Describe a typical day on your farm.
The day starts with a list (I love a good list). Every day is a little different depending on harvest needs, weather, and time of year. Spring is planting season, so today we started with a morning harvest for restaurants and then transitioned into planting tomatoes. Drip irrigation was laid, beds were watered, tomatoes were planted and then covered with row cover for frost protection. The afternoon involved direct seeding sunflowers, arugula, radishes, and beets, and then more irrigation. Tomorrow’s list is then created at the end of the day.
Name three unexpected sensory delights of farming.
Seeing the bald eagles soar above the fields, saving seeds, and raising Monarch Butterflies.
The last was a highlight of last year. In our early days, we realized the farm has quite a bit of native narrow leaf milkweed, the sole food source for Monarch caterpillars. For years I waited for the Monarchs to arrive, with no luck. Then last year, I connected with expert “Monarch Merle” Reuser, who remembers when Monarchs were prolific in Cloverdale. He brought me about 20 Monarch caterpillars to raise in little terrariums (in the wild Monarchs have only a 50% success rate, mostly due to bird predators). Once our tiny caterpillars grew up and morphed into butterflies, all the while eating a large amount of milkweed, we released them. Lucky for us, these butterflies fluttered around the farm for a few weeks, enjoying the many flowers blooming, before their journey South. I look forward to making this a tradition, and I’m hopeful that one day their offspring will return.
What sustainable or environmental practices are you most proud of?
While I participate in many of the organic farming practices of growing happy soil, I pride myself on the biodiversity found at Lantern Farm. When I take a step back and look at the fields, I smile at the sight of everything growing, minus the weeds of course. I intermingle the flowers with the veggies throughout the farm and this mix of crops helps keep the soil healthy and the bees happy. There is also a lot of natural open space surrounding the farm, encouraging all the wild beasts to live as they should, even if they occasionally wreak havoc on the fields.
If you could change one thing about the food industry, what would it be, and why?
I would love to change the perception of farmers as male, since 36% of farmers nationally are women. If people only knew I was the farmer, surely they would stop asking my husband all the farming questions.
More importantly though, if Big Ag focused more on building soil, we would all be in a better place. In my farming practice, it all starts and ends with the love of soil. I take the time to add compost, grow cover crops to increase nutritional value, rotate crops, minimize tillage, and stay away from chemicals. This creates happy soil which results in happy plants, and a happier planet.
What is your greatest challenge as a farmer?
My greatest challenge is not farming. As a small business owner, I also do all the back end work to make sure everything is running smoothly and all the bills are paid. I don’t mind the work and I enjoy having such a thorough understanding of my business; however, I would much rather be in the field than sitting in front of my computer crunching numbers, answering emails, or whatever else it is that needs to be done.
When you’re not farming, what are you doing?
Family time with my husband Nick and daughter Beatrix, which lately involves lots of long walks, movies, homemade popcorn and snuggling baby chicks.
Where can people find your products?
I offer farm boxes, flowers and a la carte produce through Farm + Flour, a business I started last March with Shannon Moore of Flour Girl as a way deliver our products to the local community. Farm + Flour has evolved into an online marketplace for the local farmers, bakers, makers and artisans of Cloverdale.
From May to December, I attend the Saturday Santa Rosa Farmers’ Market at the Luther Burbank Center. I also supply a few restaurants, including Campo Fina, The Trading Post, Diavola, and Plank Coffee, and sell flowers and produce to Dahlia & Sage Community Market in Cloverdale.