Arron Wilder has wanted to have his own farm since he was 19, learning the ropes as a farm apprentice. It’s taken 15 years of looking to create Table Top Neighborhood Farm in Point Reyes Station, CA.
“It’s taken a really long time for me to have the right opportunity, the right amount of money. I wanted to have the farm in a community,” says Arron who recalls getting many offers in the rural central valley of California. What he was looking for, a semi-urban, community farm, he has pieced together by being a part of the farm community in Point Reyes, an inlet an hour north of San Francisco.
Looking for farmland to lease is a challenge in any zipcode. In Point Reyes, the ante is upped by magestic views of the coastline and the appeal of California sunshine. “It was the most expensive land in the whole US last year,” said Arron, “which is really interesting in terms of agricultural use.” He points to the Marin Agricultural Land Trust which has been preserving farmland in the area since 1980. The trust preserved the land that now serves as Table Top’s flagship acreage, a four-acre parcel that is part of Black Mountain Ranch.
The ranch needs to keep part of its land as a viable agricultural business. Part of this is allowing Table Top to put crops in the 4 acres of bottomland suitable to vegetables. This acreage is one of four plots that make up the neighborhood farm.
All four locations used by Table Top Farm were offered to Arron by neighborhood residents after he began farming in the area. “I had replied to a call from Marin Organics. They had someone willing to offer up some land for agritourism. I did that for about a year and ended up farming their neighbors land.”
Three landowners approached Arron to offer the farmland. He approached one. “I found out there are a lot of people out there who are supportive of local agriculture in their community.”
Table Top does not pay to lease any of the land they farm. Arron says the benefit for the landowner is better land quality . . . and a little notoriety.
Table Top has a written agreement for three of the parcels, and an umbrella liability insurance policy that covers all of the locations. In all, the acreage that makes up Table Top Farm amounts to about 7 acres. This was the farm’s second season, and 3 of those acres were put into production. The first season was spent almost entirely on infrastructure including two greenhouses and a 24/7 self-serve farmstand. Arron continued to work full-time as a soil scientist.
“It’s an interesting challenge,” he reflected, “If I was just farming it would be more solo. Instead I’m delegating tasks. It really forced me to work with others, bring more people into the farm. As we grow we have more of a solid group of people working together.”
The farm sells produce through the farmstand, to local restaurants and looks forward to developing a CSA. As Table Top continues to farm In Point Reyes, landowners continue to offer their land. What causes neighbors to offer up the most valuable land in the country?
“There’s some other kind of value having land that’s dedicated toward small-scale agriculture in the community,” supposes Arron as he continues to piece together Table Top Farm.
This post was first published by me as part of the Agrarian Trust Project.