Starting Friday October 3rd, Organic Matters Ranch Pumpkin Patch will be open from 10 – 5 pm every Friday, Saturday and Sunday through the month of October.
By Dave Feral
I had the opportunity to visit Organic Matters Ranch, located at 6743 Myrtle Avenue in Eureka. Organic Matters is owned and operated by John Gary and his partner Heather Plaza. Together, they grow a wide array of plants and animals on their 100-acre ranch, which are then harvested and sold at markets to supply our demand for fresh, local, organic goods.
When I arrived, CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) manager Sara Mosser, John, and his crew were distributing shares for their members. CSA’s are an excellent way for community members to provide much-needed cash to a farm in spring before crops are up and money is short. CSA investors then reap the rewards when the crops come in. The CSA share was impressive; baskets bursting with fresh broccoli, peppers, potatoes, onions, chives, herbs, cucumbers, carrots, squash, berries and more! Definitely a bumper crop, and a great investment.
While Heather was busy about the farm, John was able to take some time to give me a tour of their property and share some of the story of Organic Matters Ranch. With 15 years under his belt as a farmer, John is definitely outstanding in his field! What started out as a part-time summer job to pay for college turned into a full-time ranching operation that employs nine people. In the beginning, John worked a relatively small 7-acre farm serving one wholesale account and a few farmers’ markets. But over time the farm grew to 100 acres, and John and crew are now serving fresh organic produce to markets from Trinidad to Garberville.
As we made our way around the ranch, it became clear to me that John Gary is a man of energy and vision. Everywhere we went there were innovations and an obvious awareness of best organic management systems, with the goals in mind of streamlined efficiency and old-fashioned integrity. It is apparent that John wants to use the best technology available, while keeping the environment and his bottom line in sight. When I asked him why Organic Matters, he explained: “Organic matter is a critical part of organic farming…our soil is high in organic matter. It’s a statement saying organic matters, and it’s a way of saying these things we’re doing; farming, living, raising plants and animals…these are organic matters.”
When I asked John why he chose to operate his ranch organically, he said, “What made sense to me from a historical perspective was to use the tried-and-true methods versus the relatively new conventional/GMO methods…and from a financial standpoint it is the market that I had available. We’re just a small operation and we wouldn’t have been able to compete on the national scale with all the other gigantic conventional farms from all over the world.”
There are always challenges to running a large ranch. John pointed out that they have the ability to raise sheep, beef, pork, and poultry on the ranch, but there are obstacles to getting all those types of meat and related products to market. The closest place to slaughter pork is in Sonoma County, and the nearest place to have the pork made into sausage is in Cave Junction, Oregon. When you serve pork sausages made from local pork for breakfast, that pork has to travel over 600 miles before reaching your table! When I asked John what he thought of the recent idea of building a butchering and processing plant right here in Humboldt County he exclaimed: “That’s a great idea, absolutely beautiful!”
As we made our way back to the parking area, John pointed out that, starting on October 3rd, the Organic Matters Ranch Pumpkin Patch will be open from 10 – 5 pm every Friday, Saturday and Sunday through the month of October. So whether you live in the Arcata or Eureka areas, you can conveniently take a trip out to a place where Organic Matters and purchase a fat & sassy pumpkin, or other fresh, local organic produce!