Rachel Kohn Obut: From the Garden State to Glen Ellen’s Flatbed Farm
By Jonah Raskin
By Jonah Raskin
Rachel Kohn Obut of Flatbed Farm in Glen Ellen. Photo by Shannon Lee.
“In the spring, a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” So said Alfred, Lord Tennyson, the 19th century English poet laureate in a long, rhymed verse, “Locksley Hall.” Tennyson might have added that in spring young men and women, too, think about gardening and farming.
In spring, Rachel Kohn Obut, 32, cultivates – with love and a sense of beauty – the soil at Flatbed Farm on Highway 12 in Glen Ellen. She germinates seeds in the greenhouse, where temperatures climb into the 70s, and she sells fledgling plants, newly-laid eggs, and fresh, local produce inside the high-ceiling barn that has become a destination for travelers, tourists and her own neighbors who live in the Valley of the Moon and the Mayacamas Mountains.
If you love barns you’ll probably love this one. It’s aesthetically pleasing and so is nearly everything else at Flatbed.
It’s Kohn Obut’s mission this spring to convert casual visitors into dedicated gardeners and farmers who will raise and harvest the food that they cook and eat in their own homes. Moreover, she encourages veterans to keep on doing what they’ve been doing, and to try to do it even better than ever before.
Accordingly, Kohn Obut has set aside Saturday, April 23, when wanna-be agriculturists can drop-in to shop, talk shop and buy “core starts,” as she called them: tomatoes, eggplant, kale, chard, peppers, squash, basil, parsley and more. Unlike T.S. Eliot in The Waste Land, Kohn Obut insisted April isn’t the cruelest month. Rather, it offers a big window of opportunity for planting.
On the 23rd, local crafts will be on sale in the barn; homegrown poets and musicians will perform. Plus, eggs and plant starts will be available.
“People come to Flatbed with complaints and questions,” Kohn Obut said. “Some of them planted crops last spring and little if anything worked out. They don’t want to be frustrated again; they want a return for their labors and they want to know what really does well in this area.”
Kohn Obut does her best to set them straight and give them the kind of confidence that she acquired by working in fields, gardens and on farms.
Kohn Obut grew up in the Garden State – otherwise known as New Jersey. Her parents always cultivated a garden with cucumbers, raspberries, mint and parsley. At a Pennsylvania summer camp known as Journey’s End, Kohn Obut found real inspiration and began her own personal journey into the world of edible plants and domesticated animals. Milking cows was a favorite part of her day.
After she graduated from college in Oberlin, Ohio, she came to California, and worked as the farm manager at Sonoma’s Sweetwater Spectrum, a residential community for adults with autism. There, she learned that farming is therapeutic for nearly everyone, regardless of ability.
Flatbed is owned by Sofie and Chris Dolan who are partners at 25 Lusk, a small restaurant in San Francisco sometimes described as the sexiest place to dine in the city. Some of the produce from the farm in Glen Ellen goes to the kitchen at Lusk. Hey, Flatbed is pretty sexy, too.
Farmworkers Raul and Mariano give Rachel a helping hand. “Farming isn’t ever a one person thing,” she says. Kellan McKay from Oak Hill Farm feeds the chickens and works at the farm stand that’s open on Sunday’s from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Hours will soon expand and the varieties of produce for sale will grow. Rachel Kohn Obut will always be ready to share her knowledge and wisdom born of those two perennial loves of her life: gardening and farming.
Flatbed Farm, 13450 Sonoma Hwy., Glen Ellen, 494-9210, firstname.lastname@example.org.