Rundle Family Farms
Rob Rundle was interested in farming from a young age, and recalls seeing farms on the road from Santa Monica to Silver Lake in the 1970s: “I was impressed by the look of the field and all that goes into making it look nice and making a crop,” he says. Over the years Rob has tried his hand at farming cotton and wheat (“It didn’t work out,”), spent years working at large scale farms, and studied agriculture at UC Davis. He decided to start growing his organic produce part-time in 1998 while working on a large farm in the area, a schedule that left him exhausted. “I still am exhausted!” he chuckles, “But organic just seemed like the way for a small farmer to get going.” Rundle Family Farms has been certified organic by CCOF since 1998. Rob partnered with Veritable Vegetable when he got his first crop, and together they figured out the crops and farming methods that worked best for his farm. In 2008, Rob quit his full-time job and started working for himself full-time.
Today, Rob owns 4.5 acres of the 25 acre farm, and built the house he lives in; “Took me 11 years to nail it all together,” he says. The life of a farmer is never as straightforward and easy as we like to imagine, and that goes doubly for small-scale organic operations like Rundle Family Farms. “A few years back it was easier, there was a lot less competition,” Rob says, “Here and there we had some real nice crops, big onion and big watermelon…” he pauses, perhaps considering how this year’s wet spring affected his watermelon crop (the seeded were less affected than the seedless melons). “I just try to find crops where there is less competition.”
As more and more large scale growers are converting their operations from conventional to organic, following market trends, it’s getting more difficult for smaller farmers to compete. Rob employs 10 people right now to help with harvesting the watermelon, peppers, and onions that are ready. He has at least 3 full time employees all year, sometimes 4, not including himself. Compare his 25 acre organic farm to the 20,000 acre farm not far away that has started converting some of their land from conventional to organic, and you can see the impact of big fish entering the small organic pond.
Looking to the future, Rob hopes to see more farmland preservation as development continues to change the landscape of California. If you would like to learn more about efforts to preserve and maintain farmland sustainably, check out American Farmland Trust and the USDA’s Agricultural Conservation Easement Program.
Photos © Rundle Family Farms & Ooooby Fresno
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