Family farm opens in Castlewood
Founders hope farm will encourage people to buy fruits, vegetables locally
If you've driven along the tree-lined, scenic Foothill Road recently, you may have noticed that there are crops growing at one of the residences just south of the Castlewood Golf Course.
Situated on 1 1/4 acres of a 5-acre property is the new Terra Bella Family Farm, owned and managed by Pleasanton resident Shawn Seufert.
Seufert moved into the property last November and this will be the farm's first harvest. He set up a booth at the Farmer's Market last Saturday, plans to be at the market in the coming weeks and is also appearing at the Livermore Farmers' Market on Thursdays to spread the word.
The farm is growing melons, peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, flowers and greens this year. Other fruits and vegetables will be added in the coming seasons.
The idea behind the organic farm is to produce a local supply for residents, Seufert said. Terra Bella is featured on LocalHarvest.org, a Web site that includes listings of farms that are managed by farmers who sell their crops locally to create a sustainable food supply. Seufert is working to get the farm organically certified.
The advantage of buying local, Seufert said, is that residents won't have to go to multiple grocery stores to buy fruits and vegetables they're looking for or wait in lines. The eventual goal is to set up a CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture membership club, where residents can sign up and collect a certain amount of produce they want each month.
"No one in the area is doing this and there's a demand for this," he said. "Everyone I've talked to has said they'd participate. People are definitely interested. They're slowing down, stopping in the middle of the road. Neighbors are walking over to see what's going on here."
Organic farming has been a passion of Seufert's since he was a student at UC Santa Cruz. While he majored in community studies and initially planned to go into teaching, he learned of an accredited certificate program the university offered.
"I was graduating and looking to do something else," he said. "I would just ride my bike around school and in the heart of the campus there was this 15-acre garden and farm."
The program, called the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS), was seven months long and taught students how to take care of a farm.
"You live on the farm in a tent and tend to the crops, working side by side," Seufert said. "They only accept 15 people in the program each year."
Sandy Frost, his farming partner, is also helping with the harvest. Frost, who has lived on the farms since February, has horticulture experience and has worked with community gardens in Hayward for the past seven years.
Seufert is passionate about the produce being grown on local soil and being grown organically.
"It's becoming more apparent that other countries are bringing over fruit flies and pesticides," he said. "There's been a big push for getting (fruits and vegetables) locally."
Some of the crops at Terra Bella, named after Seufert's dog Bella and meaning "beautiful Earth," are unique. Over the years, Seufert has saved seeds friends have given him that they got from other countries.
"People are going to see things here they've never seen anywhere else," he said.
Eventually, Seufert and Frost plan to have chickens, goats and rabbits.
Many cub scout groups have come by in recent weeks to volunteer their time on the farm, something that is very appreciated. For any scout groups or other groups that would like to volunteer at Terra Bella, Seufert can be reached at 462-3569. Terra Bella Family Farms is located at 7637 Foothill Road.