“Serendipity” is a word that Lou Preston uses often when describing the life that he and his wife, the artist Susan Preston, share at their Preston of Dry Creek farm and vineyard. Serendipity brought them to the land, and serendipity has, for four decades, helped them see how best to serve the land.
BLOG.Notes from the Field
Planted to wine and then to wheat, the 16 acres that HomeFarm sits on in Healdsburg's Dry Creek Valley is today a far lusher place than when SHED co-owners Doug Lipton and Cindy Daniel bought it 20 years ago. A flat swathe bordered on two sides by local creeks, the land then had no trees except those bordering the water, no plants save those sheltered by the trees, and no place for people to live.
Today, the grounds are lushly planted around a handsome rammed earth masonry home that serves as the farm's anchor. Doug and Cindy wanted to reproduce the casual surprises of a garden, not plant to the rigors of a standard production farm. A garden surrounds and envelopes a home; a production farm is usually set at a distance from the house. A garden provides solace and beauty; a farm provides work. HomeFarm, it seems, provides it all.
The result is that a small personal kitchen garden leads to a formal space not unfamiliar to European homes which leads to a native grassland which leads over a swale that directs extra rainfall to the creeks which leads to an olive orchard which leads to a citrus grove and so on. HomeFarm threads and meanders over the property, planted with an eye to permaculture and Biodynamic principles that nourish and honor the land. Though the process for organic certification didn't begin until this year, HomeFarm hasn't been sprayed since 1994 and all practice upon it is organic.
There are small wine grape blocks planted with Muscat and Rhone varietals to provide the fruit for the rosé and dessert wines released under the HomeFarm label. There are traditional plowed beds for tomatoes and squash and peppers and everything else good to eat in the summer. Okra is a specialty due to Doug and Cindy's Louisiana roots. The orchard holds a library of heritage fruit trees, just a few of each type, which tower above lettuces that stay cool in their shade. Perennial flowers are interplanted with raspberries and asparagus. There is the type of ornamental oregano that Cindy used to compose her wedding bouquet and Sicilian oregano that is dried to season "Doug's Eggs", a dish served daily on SHED's menu. There is lemon grass and lemon balm and scented geranium and dahlias and roses. Lilac in the spring and melons in the summer.
Much of the produce sold at SHED and through its CSA program comes from HomeFarm, and 95% of all the produce at SHED is sourced from farms 10 miles away or less. Supporting other farmers and providing the best-quality locally-grown food available is a founding ethos of SHED. Producing the healthiest, most delicious food possible is a founding ethos for HomeFarm.
HomeFarm, it's a pretty nice place to live.