Meet a Farmer: Andy and Julia Henderson of Confluence Farms
We caught up with farming couple Andy and Julia Henderson earlier this year when the rain was pouring in their neck of the woods. They were kind enough to spend a few minutes with us and share their farming story. Meet this charming couple and see how their love of food, and each other, brought them to Confluence Farm in Sebastopol, California.
CA GROWN: What are you doing today?
Julia: Today we are starting some tomato and lettuce seeds and getting items from the farm supply store to kick our season off. And because it’s so crazy with flooding, we are moving equipment back up to higher ground. In the last 48 hours in West Sonoma County, we have had the biggest wet weather event since 1995. Our farm has had 12 inches of rain in the last 36 hours so we are recovering from that.
CA GROWN:What is your favorite thing about farming?
Julia: I think for us it’s two-fold, one it’s being able to spend so much time together. One of our favorite parts of farming is the interaction with our customers when people are so excited to eat something we grow.
CA GROWN:How do you give back to the community?
Andy: All of the food that we grow stays in the community. As an outreach, we waste very little to no food. There are a number of places we donate food to regularly. One is the Ceres Community Project. All the meals Ceres provides are prepared by youth ages 14 and up who volunteer in a garden and two commercial kitchen sites. The food they grow and prepare are delivered to people who have serious illnesses. The meals are provided for low or no-cost. They focus on providing highly nutritious meals to support people’s health during that time of extra need.
CA GROWN:What drew you into the farming profession?
Andy:Both of us used to be chefs, I was savory and Julia was a pastry chef. With those two types of cheffing, our hours and schedules were very different. She worked early and I worked late. We wanted to work with food so farming was a great transition for us as we left the restaurant business.
Julia’s family bought the property in 1984, and when we had the opportunity to move back there and start our own farming business, we jumped at it.
CA GROWN:What are your hobbies or past times when you are not farming?
Andy:For me, I try to surf and in the winter snow board once or twice.
Julia:Outside of farming, I like art, hiking, and aerial silks. There is a studio that is dedicated to aerial silks in our town. I used to be a dancer and although it is not the same thing, it does nurture that side of me that enjoys being athletic and graceful.
CA GROWN:What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into farming?
Andy: Take it as serious as you can and treat it like any other business. Try to source proper start up income. You get what you pay for. Starting on a shoe string budget makes life hard. Farming is a passion but start out with a business plan to set yourself up for long term sustainability.
CA GROWN:What are one or two things you do on the farm to be sustainable?
Julia:We focus on soil health. We keep the soil covered to prevent it from drying out. We work hard to keep the soil alive and active. We add annual or perennial flowers in between our annual vegetable production that will aid in attracting beneficial insects. We work at creating a good habitat on the farm beyond our annual vegetables.