A Path to the Future
Anthropologists believe that humans initiated plant cultivation some 23,000 years ago. From crude techniques to modern agribusiness, farming has evolved into a complex science. Through a deeper understanding of chemical interactions and modified growing techniques, today’s independent farmers are shaking up the food world. The trend toward artisanal food, healthier diets and quest for freshness is driving menus in restaurants and home kitchens across the country.
There is a larger movement that is being advanced that involves taking greater responsibility for caring for the planet as well as the production of nutritious produce. Farming techniques that utilize best practices for conservation and ecology are known as sustainable farming, science-based practices that maximize productivity and profit while minimizing environmental damage. No GMOs, no pesticides, organic agroecology.
Heath and Meagan Emerson are passionate about their love of the land and each other. Heath attended California State University, Bakersfield, and earned a degree in psychology with an emphasis in environmental psychology. While he was an undergrad, he started a sustainability group, and his interest grew. He started graduate school at Northern Arizona University, but the call to the field was too great for him to resist. Heath wanted to get out there and make a difference. He and Meagan worked as farm managers at the Hawaiian Institute of Pacific Agriculture. In that idyllic locale, a dream began to take form. Heath and Meagan returned to Bakersfield and Heath taught at The Edible Schoolhouse, founded by icon Alice Waters. Heath also worked as a naturalist at Wind Wolves Preserve. Dream in tow, Broadfork Acres became a reality.
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Hippocrates, 431 B.C.
Meagan encountered some health issues, and, rather than pharmacological protocols, she chose to address her health concerns through a natural approach and diet. She studied nutrition and became a certified health coach. Her diet is 90 percent plant-based with an occasional cheat, being especially tempted by her Portuguese mother’s Linguica recipes. As a result, her health has improved, and she is an evangelist for gut health. A healthy body is not the only benefit from eating food with a higher nutritional content. Mycobacterium vaccae, a soil microbe, has a Prozac-like effect by stimulating production of serotonin. Serotonin is said to lower stress hormones, increase concentration and improve cognitive function in general.
The Good Earth
Permaculture is the development of ecosystems that are sustainable and self-sufficient.
Soil health is a cardinal tenant. Frequent soil analysis dictates which amendments are needed to enrich the soil for optimum productivity. “Feed the soil” is the mantra of sustainability. Crop rotation and diversity can also benefit the soil by making it healthier and richer in nutrients and micronutrients. Also, it improves pest control. Efficiency is key; one-quarter acre yields 13,020 pounds of food annually for the farm.
The use of a broadfork aerates the soil and is utilized instead of traditional tilling methods. Seeds or small seedlings are directly planted into the undisturbed soil. The stable carbon in the soil is not released to bond with the oxygen in the air and thus will not contribute to air pollution by forming carbon dioxide. Mulching methodology also minimizes carbon escape. It is this multidisciplined, holistic approach that characterizes sustainable farming.
Location, Location, Location
The time from farm to table is hours, not days. The carbon footprint is further reduced by transportation distance. Broadfork Acres is here in Bakersfield. The difference in produce that is freshly harvested is not only a more beautiful appearance. The taste, texture and nutritional value soar when freshly cut greens, newly pulled beets or just harvested carrots are served. Broadfork Acres has won praise from local chefs who love to include its produce in their culinary creations. Heath and Meagan are out to change the world and make it a better place.
“I’m feeding people I know. This is my home,” Heath says. “Bakersfield can be a leader in sustainable farming. Why not Bakersfield?”
Broadfork Acres produce is available at the weekly Haggin Oaks Farmers Market, held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays. For more information, visit BroadforkAcres.com.