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Ellen Shick

Breaking New Ground: Lantern Farm wins Snail of Approval

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Rebecca Bozzelli, owner of Lantern Farm, dreamed of starting a farm and knew that growing good food and building community would make her happy. She was head farmer at Preston Farm and Winery where she practiced biodynamic and organic growing methods. All the while, the idea of owning her own farm percolated in the back of her mind. Her dream was realized in 2017 when Lantern Farm opened, and, in 2018, Slow Food chapters in Russian River and Sonoma County North awarded Lantern Farm with the Snail of Approval for producing food that is Good, Clean, and Fair. The Snail of Approval award recently expanded to include local farmers and producers and Rebecca was one of the first recipients. Rebecca says about her farm,” I am fortunate to have found an old farm down the road from where I live, and I have big plans to make it the best little farm in Cloverdale.”

mustard flowers Lantern Farm

Among the Mustard Flowers

Lantern Farm sits in Asti Valley among the wooded hills of Cloverdale, California. I visited Rebecca on her beautiful three-acre farm located on River Road. I drove down the dirt road leading to the farm and spied Rebecca as she pulled her large wheelbarrow along neat and tidy rows of winter crops: kale, broccoli, and fennel. In the distance, I saw green vineyards and caught the fragrance of fresh mustard flowers.

Rebecca greeted me with a large bunch of spigariello, a leafy green from Italy. It’s in the Brassica family along with broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Rebecca learned about spigariello from Tucker Taylor when she took a tour of his farm. She loves to grow innovative and unusual veggies. It’s a fun way to open conversation and connect with her customers.

Lantern Farm Rebecca Bozzelli

Building the Soil and Community

Rebecca starts each day thinking about the soil. She cares about the dirt, and she knows that happy soil contributes to vibrant food that nurtures the whole community. Her core beliefs center around biodiversity and growing without the use of chemicals. She says, “For me this means building soil the good old fashioned way using compost and cover crop, selling my goods locally, supporting local businesses, using organic growing methods, paying fair wages, and creating community at my local farmers markets.”

Beneficial Insects

I asked Rebecca about some of her favorite sustainable farming methods. First, she told me about her perennial insectary, which is a “permanent area with plants that attract beneficial insects and predators.” She uses rosemary, salvia, cardoons and native trees and grasses. Thank you, Rebecca, for using nature’s very own wisdom to control those unwanted guests!

Lantern Farm flower blossoms and insectaryNext, she talked about her seeds and favorite varieties. She starts with seeds sourced from reputable companies that supply non-GMO seeds grown in organic conditions. She loves growing Slow Food Ark of Taste foods such as Bodega Red Potato, Sheepnose pimento, and Italian Purple Basil which she discovered in Italy at the Terra Madre Salone del Gusto food festival. In addition, Rebecca loves to support humane farming practices; she buys an organic compost made from the manure of chickens living a free range lifestyle.

Why Lantern Farm? 

Rebecca wanted to find a perfect name for her farm. It was a family affair. One night, Bea, Rebecca’s six year old daughter, Lantern Farmwatched the movie Rapunzel and loved the magical lanterns sent up to the sky at the end of the film. Soon after, while the family was out looking for land, they spotted two old lanterns hanging on the wall in an old barn that would later become the current Lantern Farm location. That seemed like a sign and the number of lanterns has been growing there ever since.

At this year’s Snail of Approval award ceremony, Rebecca told the crowd, “Staying tuned to the environment is the right thing to do. That’s what the Snail represents. That means not always taking the easy road. It means growing varieties that might not grow as much yield as other varieties, but they taste better. You have to grow your soil, and that takes longer, but it feels better. It makes your body feel good, it make the soil better, and it makes me feel good. So I’m proud to be one of the first farms to earn the Snail.”

Rebecca and her fresh produce and flowers can be found on Tuesdays at the Cloverdale Farmers’ Market, and on Saturdays at the Santa Rosa Farmers’ Market at LBC. Her produce is featured in Diavola Pizzeria, Brass Rabbit, and FEED Sonoma. She sells flowers to Single Thread.

Next time you are at the Farmers’ market, stop by and say hello. She would love to meet you!

Handline Coastal California Seafood Eatery sustainable wins Snail of Approval Slow Food

Catch of the Day: Handline Coastal California Receives Snail of Approval

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It is with great pride that Snail of Approval – Slow Food in Sonoma County, a joint project of Slow Food Russian River and Slow Food Sonoma County North, has presented the Snail of Approval to Handline Coastal California. This seafood eatery is located at 935 Gravenstein Hwy. South in Sebastopol, in what used to be the Foster’s Freeze drive-in. Handline offers farm-to-table food that is good, clean, and fair. Handlining is one of the oldest forms of fishing and oriented towards sustainability: in the words of the restaurant, “fishing by hand while thinking long-term.”

Dynamic Sebastopol Couple

This represents the second Snail of Approval for the wife and husband team, Natalie Goble and Lowell Sheldon, Sebastopol locals. When they are not spending time with their two sons, ages one and three, they run two restaurants with 80 employees in total. In 2007 Sheldon had a dream to open a sustainable organic restaurant in his hometown, and Lowell’s opened that same year. It quickly gained popularity with an all-organic menu that fuses Italian traditions with local West County fare. Lowell’s earned the Snail of Approval in February of 2018, and with Sheldon’s steadfast commitment to sustainability, it is no coincidence that Handline receives the same high praise. In keeping with their commitment to community building, Lowell and Natalie have created their West Sonoma County Field Guide, a collection of local wineries, scenic trails, spas, and other favorite spots along the Sonoma Coast.

West Coast Field Guide, page 1

West Sonoma County Field Guide

West Coast Field Guide, page 2

Destined to be a chef

At Handline’s wine and beer bar, Natalie Goble and I sat down to talk about her life and how she became a chef. During our visit, I learned that Natalie began developing her skills at age 21 while working with Daniel Kedan, owner of Backyard (another Snail of Approval recipient). She radiated an inner peace, a solid grounding and a confidence that comes from living out your core beliefs and keeping the important things in life in balance.

Natalie is a local gal, raised on 24 acres on Green Valley Road in Sebastopol. Her father purchased their home in the 1980’s during the “back to the land” movement. They raised apples, kiwi, and persimmons. Through her home garden, Natalie developed a connection to nature and an understanding of sustainable food systems. After earning a degree in philosophy from UC Santa Cruz and with some world travels under her belt, Natalie returned home to Sebastopol and started working at Lowell’s as a cook. It turned out to be an excellent match. Lowell and Natalie fit like a glove and found that they worked side by side in perfect harmony.

Natalie and Lowell owners of Handline Sustainable fish Eatery in Sebastopl

Natalie and Lowell

Local, sustainable sourcing

During our visit, the waiter brought Natalie one of her L.A.-inspired creations: the mighty salmon burger, which stood several inches high with its generous slab of local salmon. It reminded me of one of those juicy California burgers where the special sauce oozes out, runs down your arms and drips in puddles on the plate below. I realized that this fabulous burger personified the farm-to-table, seasonal, and collaborative principles that Natalie and Lowell bring to their restaurants:

Handline’s concept embraces Slow Food principles.

During the Snail of Approval process, Lowell shared some important background. He stated, “The trout we source comes from McFarland Springs, which is the world’s first deliberate collaboration to responsibly farm sustainable fish. The result is a sustainable and wonderful artisanal product.” Handline now offers a fish market where customers can buy fresh fish in season and learn where their food comes from. For example, their San Francisco purveyor for halibut is Water 2 Table, focusing on hook-and-line fishing.

In addition, Natalie and Lowells’ stewardship of the land and connection to the community is at the center of their ethos. They participate in “Dining Out for Life,” the annual dining fundraising event to raise money for AIDS service organizations. This year they took part in the “Dine and Donate” program, with 30% of each purchase going to support Sebastopol Charter School.

Handline Local Oysters Sustainable Fishing Snail of Approval

Sustainably farmed oysters

Sustainability in practice

Connection to the farming community is robust. Their family farm, named Two Belly Acres (a play on “two bellyachers”), provides 60% of the produce for their restaurants. In addition, as Lowell will tell you, “We work directly with no fewer than two dozen farmers and producers.”

Light years away from the typical L.A. burger after which it is modeled, the beef in the Handline’s burgers are “sourced from local Mindful Meats/Marin Sun Farms. Their cows live long and healthy lives as pasture-raised dairy cows. One cow alone provides over 80,000 pounds of food in her six year lifetime, in the form of milk, butter, cream, cheese, ice cream, and beef.”

Their respect for the environment extends all the way to the parking lot. When the large driveway in front of Foster’s Freeze was torn up, they used the discarded chunks of concrete to build a lovely Gabion wall around the restaurant, which keeps out the sound from passing cars and adds to the rustic yet new-age feel of the place.

Two Belly Acres Handline Family Farm

Seasonal favorites from Natalie and Lowell’s family farm

The story continues with cocktails

The dynamic couple is not stopping there. December 20, 2018, saw the grand opening of their third establishment, the Fern Bar. located in the historic Barlow district, once home to Sebastopol’s apple canning industry. The Fern Bar serves cocktails and share plates in the style of a modern American bar with a garden-to-glass focus. Perhaps you remember the term “fern bar” used in the 1970’s to refer to a trendy tavern. When entering the Fern Bar, customers find themselves inside a lush greenhouse. There are several cozy spaces lined with soft green couches, hanging plants, and sunny window seats.

Fern Bar Barlow Sebastopol

Enjoy a locally inspired cocktail in the Fern Bar

Natalie said their fern-bar idea had always been on the back burner, and she is happy to see it come to fruition. Much like Foster’s Freeze embodied the cultural history of California burger drive-ins, Natalie is firmly grounded in Sebastopol’s apple history. Now she is coming full circle. The Slow Food chapters give a big thank you to Lowell and Natalie for their passion and commitment to food that is good, clean and fair. After I try one of those enormous salmon burgers, I will be stopping by the Fern Bar for a cocktail. Want to join me?