Farming for Mouth and Soul

11327.160 Columbia College graduate, Fulbright professor, book critic, published author and poet. As if all these titles did not suffice, Jonah Raskin had to go and add farm worker and reporter to his many-faceted career description. In his new book, Field Days: a Year of Farming, Eating and Drinking Wine in California, he details his experiences working on Oak Hill Farm in Sonoma, an idea sprung from his enthusiasm for organic farming and local eating.

With a lawyer father who grew vegetables organically and a mother who taught healthy eating cooking classes with the produce from their garden (using tofu, brown rice and wheat germ before it was on the trend radar), Raskin’s love of the small local farm came naturally.

“I had farming in my blood,” he explains on the University of California Press podcast, where he discusses the book’s development.

Headed by Sharon Grossi, Oak Hill Farm grows 25 varieties of fruits and vegetables in addition to flowers. They sell to multiple farmers’ markets and gourmet restaurants in the Bay Area. Raskin had always enjoyed the beauty of its fields from afar; he passed it often while on his commute to Sonoma State University where he teaches Communication Studies. His attraction for the property eventually drew him up the long driveway to door of the farmhouse keeping an ancient oak tree company.

What the author refers to as his “odyssey” began late in 2006 and brought him, amongst others, behind the scenes at the Sonoma Whole Foods and to the Oak Hill booth at the Petaluma farmers’ market, to numerous gourmet kitchens and to the sunrise shift out in the fields themselves.

Other than putting him back in touch with the soil carpeting memories of his childhood, Jonah Raskin’s organic farming journey left him “cleaner and freer in a lot of ways.”

Life on the new generation of small farms in Sonoma may not be easy, but it seems to be as good for the mind as the kale, peaches, avocadoes, bok choy, garlic and, of course, wine is for the mouth.

It only makes sense that, throughout this year, Raskin “could feel [his] old body getting younger.”

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