CORRALITOS, Calif. — Lonely Mountain Farm was named after J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Hobbit” story in which the riches-laden mountain is overseen by a fiery dragon.
These days, the dragon has shuffled on and the “riches” have morphed into organic crops.
Kenny Baker started the farm on 5 acres of leased land in 2009. He and his wife, Molly, plowed under a dirt bike course to make way for their dream farm.
Kenny had previously worked at several organic farms in Santa Cruz County.
“With my hands in the dirt, doing my work is where I feel purposeful and at peace,” Kenny said on the farm’s website.
When the couple first broke ground on the Santa Cruz County farm they decided it was important to grow crops that would be shelf-stable — potatoes instead of lettuce — because they had no clue where or to whom they would market them.
The first year they grew an acre of heirloom potatoes, many varieties and many colors. They also started to experiment with growing heirloom dried beans.
“After being known as the potato farmers, we began to augment our plantings to include other niche and unrepresented items that were not at the marketplace,” Molly said. “Some of these crops included parsnips, rutabagas, specialty beans and peppers.”
Eventually, the couple built up name recognition and branding, and were able to get into bigger farmers markets. Currently, the farm grows 75-100 different crops including flowers, vegetables, fruits and herbs.
Brie Mazurek, communications director of CUESA, which operates the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in San Francisco, said the Bakers represent the next generation of innovative organic farmers, bringing a diversity of fruits, vegetables and flowers to the market, all grown with a deep care for stewarding the land and feeding the community.
The selection of crops continues to vary. The Bakers say it has seen many transformations since the beginning.
“We grow many unusual crops including mulberries, loquats, passion fruit, gherkin cucumbers, indigo tomatoes and more,” Molly said. “The most difficult crop to grow is cucumbers because of the insect pressure, cool nights and trellising requirements.”
The farm is also host to many beneficial insects and animals including ladybugs, praying mantises, frogs, chickens, owls and red-tail hawks.
They are also consistently creating new habitat and maintaining farm edges to encourage beneficial insects.
Wild animals are considered part of the farm and not a problem. The Santa Cruz Mountains area is deer country and fencing was installed to keep them out.
The region-wide drought is a challenge for every farm, they said.
Farming consumes lots of water, so when there are droughts it is a double-edged sword — less water is available, and at the same time more water is needed, they said.