We had the opportunity to spend a sunny autumn morning on the Central Coast of California with Carla Malloy at Elderflat Farm. Elderflat Farm is made of three working parts — The Farm, The Barnyard, and The Garden. The Malloy family mission is to cultivate community and connections and increase access to nutrient-dense foods using regenerative agriculture and biodynamic farming methods. Together they grow seasonal vegetables and fruits, pasture-raised chickens for eggs, California Red Sheep for wool, and seasonal pigs and beef for meat. A true labor of love, the Malloys tend to 102 acres of land, run an organic garden, and raise and care for animals 365 days a year on the beautiful mesa they call home - Elder Flat.
Read more from our interview with Carla Malloy below!
Elderflat Farm is part of a CSA program — what is in the boxes you share with your neighbors this time of year?
Our weekly Farm boxes change with the seasons. This month we have beautiful leafy greens, hakurei turnips, radishes, beets, carrots, pomegranates and winter squash. Definitely feeling the Fall vibes. We try to keep things changing but I definitely appreciate the patience that comes with our community after having weeks of broccoli or cabbage.
Rumor has it you are passionate about food preservation in the form of canning— what is your favorite vegetable to can?
Ha! Yes that is true! A couple favorites are my spiced pickled beets, garlic dill carrots and preserved lemons. I love making jam and have to set aside a case of strawberry jam every summer just for my Dad.
Can you share a simple canning recipe with us?
Start with an easy quick fresh pickle. I like to use apple cider vinegar but any vinegar will do. I like a 50/50 vinegar water ratio. A nice amount of sea salt, (kosher or any sea salt will do but not iodized salt, the anti-caking agent clouds the brine) Prep your vegetables, carrots, onions, cauliflower, anything you have left in the fridge will be great not to waste! Heat 2 cups water, 2 cups vinegar and 2 TBSP salt in a pan to dissolve salt. You can add a little sugar if you like a sweet pickle. Pack your clean jars with a clove or two of garlic, black peppercorns and I usually add a 1/2 tsp each of dill and brown mustard seed. Ladle your brine over your veggies and throw them in the fridge. It’s really simple and fun to experiment with different seasoning. Try adding cumin and turmeric to pickled cauliflower!
Can you please explain the tenets of biodynamic farming and regenerative agriculture?
To me, the easiest way to explain regenerative agriculture is to picture building soil instead of depleting it. Using minimal tillage techniques, heavy composting and sowing cover crops. Feed our soil, feed our crops, feed ourselves. The biodynamic aspect is the diversity. Biodynamics look at a farm as one holistic being on its own. Our crops feed the animals, their manure makes the compost, it’s applied to the garden which then feeds us. It is a closed loop, with minimal waste. It’s a lot of work, but when everything is in harmony, dang, it’s so beautiful.
Can you share any resources for folks who would like to learn more about food system resilience, and regenerative farming?
Every January I attend the Ecological Farming Association conference... Eco Farm! It is a great resource to meet farmer folk, gardeners, producers and get the latest on all things agriculture.
What are you currently reading?
The 2022 Seed Catalogs. Baker Creek Seed Co, Johnny’s Seeds, Seed Saver’s Exchange.
Who is your biggest influence?
It would have to be my mentor Chris Thompson. He taught me a lot and still comes by the farm to deliver compost and give me advice. He took a chance on me and let me run around his garden 10 years ago, there’s no way I could thank him enough for what he’s given me.
Tell us about Los Alamos — what does Fall look like where you are? (Tell us about what you are growing, too!)
Our little town of Los Alamos is a one horse town. Mid-week you’ll be pressed to find anything open. But Thursday through Sunday it’s bustling with families visiting and eating in all the incredible restaurants. We sell to many of the restaurants in town and are opening a small independent grocery store this month! We will have it stocked with produce from our farm and other local sources. There will also be plenty of provisions such as honey, olive oil, pastas, cheese and charcuterie. We want to feed our community and give travelers a little part of Los Alamos to take home.
Can you share a snapshot of your day with us? When and how does it start and end?
That’s always a fun question and I don’t have an exact answer! Every day is different. I don’t call myself owner or a farmer, my title is Problem Solver! I’ve really learned that over the years. When I wake up, feed kids, animals and start to plan my day I just have to look at what I need to prioritize. If there is a sick animal, is the well pumping water, did we break an irrigation line, will the tractor start? Right now I have a lot of computer and business tasks to handle. I’m grateful for our little team and my family, they are very involved on a day to day basis and always are willing to help me. My husband Chris is always pushing me toward my dreams. We are a team through and through.