California’s organic farming community lost a pioneer this past November. Farmer and teacher Carl Rosato passed away at the age of 62. The FruitGuys Community Fund first got to know Carl in 2014, when he and his wife, Helen Atthowe, received one of our small farm grants.
Their grant work was impressive. Carl and Helen used their funding to investigate building healthy, natural soil. Their research found that their “system, featuring low nitrogen and low organic spray material inputs, resulted in good yields of high-quality fruit with less than 10 percent pest damage, as well as lower labor costs.” Check out this video to learn more about Woodleaf Farm’s ecological makeup.
Carl’s involvement in organic farming was farther reaching than that, though. He first joined a farming and intentional-living community when he was just 15, supporting himself by picking fruit in Washington State orchards for five years. He worked hard, eventually saving enough to buy his first farm with his first wife in 1980. He took that 10 acres in the Sierra foothills, built up the poor soil, and planted 1,000 peach trees and 40 mandarin orange trees.
Through the years, he continued to develop his farm and farming practices. Carl purchased another 16 acres and added another 2,000 fruit trees. He grew flowers, vegetables, and shitake mushrooms, too. His sustainable approach to farming grew to include reduced tillage and living mulches to help cycle nutrients and provide habitat for beneficial insects; a gravity flow irrigation system; 100% solar power for the farm; low-energy-use buildings; and cats for gopher control.
He was also heavily involved in the organic farming community. In 1982, Woodleaf became the ninth farm in California to be certified by California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF). He also became a CCOF certifier and began attending EcoFarm conferences. In 1992, Carl received the first Organic Farming Research Foundation farmer research grant. He used the funding to study organic methods for addressing peach brown-rot management and developed his famous “mineral-mix bloom spray” to manage brown-rot. Later, Carl became president of the North Valley California chapter of CCOF and served as a CCOF state board member (2005-2012) and a Community Alliance with Family Farmers board member (2000-2005).
Shortly after completing their FruitGuys Community Fund-supported grant research in 2014, Carl and Helen semi-retired and moved to Oregon, developing a new farm for themselves, while passing on the original 26-acre Woodleaf Farm to the next generation. Knowing that small, independent farmers were, and still are, increasingly losing access to America’s farmland, Carl and Helen made sure Woodleaf was in good hands. Now known as Peach Jamboree, the Oroville farm is operated under the loving stewardship of Danny Lazzarini and Andrew Seidman.
In honor of Carl’s dedication to organic agriculture, ecological preservation, and the farming community, The FruitGuys Community Fund will be planting a tree in his memory. To learn more about Carl’s life please visit his obituary.