2014 Grantee Alum
The FruitGuys Community Fund first got to know Woodleaf Farm back in 2014 when they were recipients of our small farm grants. Carl Rosato and Helen Atthowe established Woodleaf Farm in 1980, providing organic produce with 26 acres of native oak and pine forest. Over those 30 years Carl and Helen became recognized as leaders in farm design that helped to suppress pests and soil management practices that improve plant health, while remaining organic. Using the FruitGuys Community Fund grant they documented the biological and economic sustainability of agro-ecosystem farming techniques.
Succession Planning for Small Farmers
Around this time Carl and Helen were also in the process of succession planning. After 30 years of farming, they wanted to hand the 26-acre farm over to the next generation.
Like many independent farmers in the U.S., succession planning isn’t simple. The days of passing the family farm through the generation seem to be gone. This is, in part, due to many factors. For example, more farmers are renting their land. When landowners retire or pass away, their estates are sold and farmers may not be able to renew their lease. This lack of continuity means that more land used by small, independent farmers will change hands over the next couple of decades.
Large corporate farms now account for 50% of all American farmland. Medium-sized farms are purchased by large farms, squeezing out independent farmers committed to organic food production. It’s getting harder to compete due to economies of scale and lack of land ownership.
In 2016 Carl and Helen found a young couple with 15-years of farming experience who were keen to take over Woodleaf Farm. Danny Lazzarini and Andrew Seidman took over the farm with Carl and Helen as mentors. The transition itself was relatively painless, however it hasn’t all been plain sailing for Woofleaf’s new owners.
Butte County’s Wall Fire
After a good first year, Danny and Andrew farm was affected by Butte County’s Wall Fire. Over 6,000 acres were burned over 10 days, destroying 41 residences and 57 structures. Thanks to the fire department’s warning and Danny and Drew’s quick action, they were able to save some of the fruit orchards. However, when the winds shifted, the fire consumed their entire homestead, including their house, belongings, workshop, packing shed, cooler, several other structures, and most of their tools and farm equipment.
Help Get Woodleaf Farm Back on Its Feet
If you would like to help Danny and Drew get Woodleaf Farm back on its feet, a gofundme campaign is underway. We invite you to join others in raising $100,000 so they can rebuild their farm and thrive.