By Ellen Shick
Rebecca Bozzelli, owner of Lantern Farm, dreamed of starting a farm and knew that growing good food and building community would make her happy. She was head farmer at Preston Farm and Winery where she practiced biodynamic and organic growing methods. All the while, the idea of owning her own farm percolated in the back of her mind. Her dream was realized in 2017 when Lantern Farm opened, and, in 2018, Slow Food chapters in Russian River and Sonoma County North awarded Lantern Farm with the Snail of Approval for producing food that is Good, Clean, and Fair. The Snail of Approval award recently expanded to include local farmers and producers and Rebecca was one of the first recipients. Rebecca says about her farm,” I am fortunate to have found an old farm down the road from where I live, and I have big plans to make it the best little farm in Cloverdale.”
Among the Mustard Flowers
Lantern Farm sits in Asti Valley among the wooded hills of Cloverdale, California. I visited Rebecca on her beautiful three-acre farm located on River Road. I drove down the dirt road leading to the farm and spied Rebecca as she pulled her large wheelbarrow along neat and tidy rows of winter crops: kale, broccoli, and fennel. In the distance, I saw green vineyards and caught the fragrance of fresh mustard flowers.
Rebecca greeted me with a large bunch of spigariello, a leafy green from Italy. It’s in the Brassica family along with broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Rebecca learned about spigariello from Tucker Taylor when she took a tour of his farm. She loves to grow innovative and unusual veggies. It’s a fun way to open conversation and connect with her customers.
Building the Soil and Community
Rebecca starts each day thinking about the soil. She cares about the dirt, and she knows that happy soil contributes to vibrant food that nurtures the whole community. Her core beliefs center around biodiversity and growing without the use of chemicals. She says, “For me this means building soil the good old fashioned way using compost and cover crop, selling my goods locally, supporting local businesses, using organic growing methods, paying fair wages, and creating community at my local farmers markets.”
I asked Rebecca about some of her favorite sustainable farming methods. First, she told me about her perennial insectary, which is a “permanent area with plants that attract beneficial insects and predators.” She uses rosemary, salvia, cardoons and native trees and grasses. Thank you, Rebecca, for using nature’s very own wisdom to control those unwanted guests!
Next, she talked about her seeds and favorite varieties. She starts with seeds sourced from reputable companies that supply non-GMO seeds grown in organic conditions. She loves growing Slow Food Ark of Taste foods such as Bodega Red Potato, Sheepnose pimento, and Italian Purple Basil which she discovered in Italy at the Terra Madre Salone del Gusto food festival. In addition, Rebecca loves to support humane farming practices; she buys an organic compost made from the manure of chickens living a free range lifestyle.
Why Lantern Farm?
Rebecca wanted to find a perfect name for her farm. It was a family affair. One night, Bea, Rebecca’s six year old daughter, watched the movie Rapunzel and loved the magical lanterns sent up to the sky at the end of the film. Soon after, while the family was out looking for land, they spotted two old lanterns hanging on the wall in an old barn that would later become the current Lantern Farm location. That seemed like a sign and the number of lanterns has been growing there ever since.
At this year’s Snail of Approval award ceremony, Rebecca told the crowd, “Staying tuned to the environment is the right thing to do. That’s what the Snail represents. That means not always taking the easy road. It means growing varieties that might not grow as much yield as other varieties, but they taste better. You have to grow your soil, and that takes longer, but it feels better. It makes your body feel good, it make the soil better, and it makes me feel good. So I’m proud to be one of the first farms to earn the Snail.”
Rebecca and her fresh produce and flowers can be found on Tuesdays at the Cloverdale Farmers’ Market, and on Saturdays at the Santa Rosa Farmers’ Market at LBC. Her produce is featured in Diavola Pizzeria, Brass Rabbit, and FEED Sonoma. She sells flowers to Single Thread.
Next time you are at the Farmers’ market, stop by and say hello. She would love to meet you!
About Ellen Shick
Ellen Shick is a proud Slow Food member and is always on the lookout for ways to feed the world, one delicious meal at a time. Traveling through Italy has become a passion and life journey. Ellen’s blog An Italian Dish is her place to share travel adventures, recipes, photos, books, and stories about her love of Italy, the food and the people.