story & photos by Mary Charlebois
Cover image: Samantha LeVine with carrots for CSA boxes and farmer’s market.
There’s a big S-curve about a quarter of the way down the gravel road. A few chuck-holes, a downhill ride, a deep, quiet valley, and you’re in utopia. Redwoods and conifers circle the basin. The Garcia River rolls by. Seventeen acres of fruit and vegetables buzz and hum with bees and pollinators.
My first instinct was to pick an apple from the fence where they were trained to grow. A thousand shades of green, an earthy sweet smell, the soundtrack of birdsong echoing slightly in the woods. All were punctuated by saws sawing, hammers hammering and muted conversation—people at work, building and growing this off-grid farm that relies on solar and wind for electricity and propane for cooking.
Oz Farm has been a part of the Point Arena/Manchester community since the ‘70s. First known as Village Oz, it was the location of a ‘back to the land’ endeavor. The villagers built dwellings, barns and gardens, most notably a double-geodesic dome that sleeps ten.
In the early ‘90s, John Hooper bought the property, changed the name to Oz Farm, and met the requirements needed for organic farm certification (Oz is certified 100% organic by the California Certified Organic Farmers). Current owner, Dean Fernandez, has an evolved business model for the 240-acre farm, cidery, farm-stay site, retreat center, event venue and forest.
Seventeen acres are dedicated to fruit and vegetable gardens. Oz grows fifty heirloom varieties of eating and cider apples with names like Arkansas Black, King of Tomkins and Cinnamon Spice. Pear orchards produce unique varieties. Everything is organically raised and processed. Vegetable gardens produce salad mix, potatoes, beans, peppers, garlic, onions, brassicas, tomatoes, herbs, strawberries and more. Fifteen varieties of cut flowers decorate the flower gardens.
New crops are always being tested. The quinoa was about 3-feet tall during my visit and just starting to make flowers. This fall, it’ll be over 5-feet with golden seed-heads. Fernandez hopes to find a variety that will flourish on the coast and provide local alternative grain.
Oz distributes their bounty to Point Arena and Gualala through a Community Supported Agriculture program, as well as through farmers’ markets, Point Arena Co-op, local chefs and eateries. A farm stand is planned for next season.
The Dome house is available for farmstay and events| Margaret Grace, Administrative Director and Events Manager| Cut flower garden at Oz Farm
A new barn is almost complete. It will be home to Oz Farm Cidery and Tasting Room. The picturesque building will also be available for events and celebrations in its 1,800-square-foot main room. The barn siding was milled on-site from fallen redwood. Hardwoods used in the barn came from Lake County trees that were felled as burn stops during the 2016 wildfires. The grand opening for the barn is October 7, during the Oz Farm Harvest Celebration. The annual community event will host picnicking, live music, dancing, apple juice, apple pies, apple cider, French fries and homemade catsup.
There is a forestry undertaking at Oz, but not one with high-impact logging. Second-growth redwood and fir are being slowly harvested to remove defective and suppressed trees, retain riparian areas, minimize roads, replant redwoods, and improve the trail system for recreational purposes. Taking this managed approach has improved tree growth, wildlife and habitat.
Oz Farm has lodging available. From yurts to a doubledomed, riverside house, each is unique and fits perfectly within the landscape. You can rent an individual cabin or the entire camp for retreats and celebrations. Groups are kept to a small size to minimize the impact on the land. Reserve early, as the schedule fills quickly for spring and summer.
Oz also grows farmers. Each year they take applications for apprentice positions. From March to November, apprentices are paid a modest stipend while living and working on the farm. They receive hands-on education in communal living, farming and land stewardship. Apprentice work covers running the organic farm with wide-ranging fruit and vegetable production, manufacturing and marketing. Applications for apprentices are open from November through January. All are invited to apply; only four spots are filled each year.
A trip to Oz Farm can include a farm tour or a farm-stay. For an immersive Oz experience, have a meal of their organic fruits and vegetables. It will stay with you forever.
www.ozfarm.com or call Margaret at (707) 882-3046.
41601 Mountain View Road, Point Arena.