California is helping to lead the way in organic farming and introducing a new generation of growers to the land. One such 21st-century farmer is MarkMaker Andrea Davis-Cetina. We caught up with her to find out why early mornings and hard labor lead to the good life.
Forget the solitary life of our agricultural ancestors. Instead, you’ll find today’s farmers on Instagram, tending small patches of land just beyond the city limits and selling their wares at local farmer's markets.
Not content with simply eating food with a better backstory, these ethical gourmands are migrating from the city to turn their passion into a profession.
Andrea Davis-Cetina is one such modern farmer planting her roots in the Golden State.
Growing up in Maryland, Davis-Cetina always had an innate relationship with the land that surrounded her. However, it wasn’t until she watched the barns and fields of her childhood slowly disappear that her interest in sustainability grew.
After getting her hands dirty creating edible gardens for restaurants, Andrea finally took a leap of faith in 2008 and started Quarter Acre Farm in Sonoma (it's since grown to 3/4 of an acre). The farm specializes in heirloom and cherry tomatoes, and only uses natural and sustainable farming methods.
Andrea Davis-Cetina is now a leading figure within the organic movement, hosting a radio show, representing a local committee in Washington DC, and teaching others how to go green. We caught up with her to find out what it means to be a modern farmer and why we should all support farm-to-fork food.
When did you realize farming was the life for you?
Andrea: I applied to Hampshire College in Massachusetts intending to focus my studies on photography but I needed a work study job, so I started working at the Farm Center so I could spend time outside and work with my hands. After my first semester, I was head over heels in love with farming and I changed my study focus to agriculture.
Of course, I was worried I might be romanticizing farm life, so during my summer vacations I worked as an apprentice on farms in Maine, upstate New York and North Carolina. I was working six days a week all summer long, but instead of being scared away from farming the hard work made me want to do it even more.
Why did you choose to farm organically?
A: I use regenerative practices to improve the land and ecosystem, rather than just sustaining it. I was raised to leave a place better than I found it. That’s just how I see my place and effect on the world. The land was here before me and the land will be here long after I’m gone.
What made Sonoma so appealing?
A: I was initially drawn to the culinary vibe, but the vibrant central downtown area and all the locally owned businesses kind of sealed the deal. The rolling hills and hot summer days also remind me of where I grew up. California is home to almost 4,000 certified organic operations - that’s over 1.6 million acres – partly because the locals here love organic produce. I love that I can grow almost anything in Sonoma and know it'll be appreciated.
What do you discuss on your radio show?
A: I focus on living and promoting a local lifestyle, sharing advice for gardeners and farmers alike. My shows range from discussions about vegetables, ranching, school gardens, seasonal menus and much more – anything that I think will benefit farmers and their supporters.
Why is buying organic important?
A: Choosing certified organic foods provides a tangible way for you to benefit the environment, local economies, and public health - both on and off the farm. Organic food supports you, your health, the health of your children and the planet. The fact that most young farmers are deciding to become certified organic shows that the younger generation are looking to their future and beyond. They are taking responsibility for their actions and looking for solutions to fix the problems of our agricultural past.
How can we support organic farmers?
A: Buy directly from certified organic farmers at farmers’ markets, and ask for certified organic products at your favorite grocery store or restaurant - consumer demand drives change.
What’s the best thing about your job?
A: I love being outside. I get to see my plants grow, watch wildlife live in harmony with my crops, bask in the sunlight. I really enjoy that cool afternoon breeze once it gets hot, then working in the greenhouse when it’s cold out. I love to cook, so filling my truck with freshly harvested produce and heading home to make meals from ingredients I’ve grown is really satisfying.
How would someone follow in your footsteps?
A: Farming is a lifestyle, not just a career. Apprentice on a farm for a whole season - ideally live there if you can. You’ll be able to see the ebb and flow of the work, how the role changes with the season, as well as the different business aspects needed to run a commercial operation. If you’re not completely in love with it after a season that’s cool - you can always garden as a hobby.
What are your passions outside of your work?
A: It might sound a little crazy, but agriculture is my passion. I live and breathe this stuff. The books I read, the movies I watch, the meals I prepare, the magazines I flip through, the people I follow on Instagram; it all has a relationship to food and farming. I also love listening to Americana music - finding bands and musicians to highlight on my radio show gives me an excuse to make time for concerts.
How does Timberland align with your sustainable lifestyle?
What does The Modern Trail mean to you?
A: Young farmers, like myself, live on The Modern Trail. I start my day at the farm harvesting crops to take to the market, then I drive into the city, deliver some vegetables to restaurants, maybe hit up the farmers markets and then grab a drink with friends. It’s about remembering to get outside and go exploring.