The first time I visited Kandarian Organic Farms in Los Osos, I knew it was magical. After two more visits…still magical. I can’t wait to go back.
The farm itself is not much to look at in terms of above ground activity. Large, neatly rowed plots occupy the sloped North facing property, giving it a soothingly pastoral feel. I have yet to catch it at harvest time however, leaving me without a clear picture of what the farm looks like when crops have grown to their full height. I’m sure the timing of tours is purposeful, since Larry, the farmer and owner, doesn’t exactly have a lot of time for showing people around when he needs to harvest his ancient grains, legumes and herbs.
Despite missing out on the tractors and harvesters in action, I have come to understand, through Larry’s gracious and in-depth teaching, that the farm is in fact quite active, ALL. THE. TIME! He looks forward to the days when he can welcome back large groups to broadcast the teaching more widely, and inspire folks to pay attention to nature, and do as she does.
What does that mean, exactly? Well, for instance, in the 21 years that Larry Kandarian has farmed his 130 acres of perennial crops, the soil has only been disturbed through extreme minimal tillage. Also, he grows roughly 1,000 different crops. Also, he alternates planting legumes and grains. What does all of this lead to, you might ask?
Ok, maybe you didn’t ask because you’re not as much of a plant nerd as me, but I’ll tell you anyway.
These regenerative agriculture practices mean that Larry’s soil is RICH. It means that the microbes and fungi are diverse and highly active. Larry explained that he even takes time to get to know the weeds on his property because these, believe it or not, can be important for the health and resilience of his soil, crops, farm, and - ultimately - our planet. Any plant with roots is a plant that is exchanging information with the microorganisms in the soil - they are a part of the cycle of symbiotic mutualism that keeps them, and us, alive.
Left to right: Foxtail Millet & rice cultivars (Photo courtesy of Kandarian Organic Farms)
Larry is working with folks from Rodale Institute and Patagonia to test his soil for carbon sequestration (meaning, they are measuring how much carbon has been pulled out of the atmosphere and into the soil through plants, who use it for their life cycles). This will lead to a Regenerative Organic Certificate for his farm that demonstrates the value it adds to a healthy environment.
Ever the forward thinker, Kandarian will be adding this information to his product packaging via a QR code so that customers can find out how much impact his farm, and their purchase, has against climate change!
I mean, if you were not excited about soil science before you started reading this, I am POSITIVE, you are now feeling energized and ready to get your hands soil-y!
Here at Slow Money SLO, these are the stories we love to share because this information needs to get to the people. Folks like Larry across the country and globe are protecting our planet. We need more of them! And, as Larry is quick to point out, we need to scale these practices so that the soil of the plains is as healthy and rich as the soil of the forest floor.
So, tune in to nature, tune in to folks who are tuning into nature. Understand their needs, volunteer to help, and invest in their products and their work. We can’t do life without them, and they can’t do life without us. It takes a community of soil nerds (and/or) fans to work together and find solutions for our beloved mother - Earth.
Asclepius, also known as butterfly milkweed (Photo courtesy of Kandarian Organic Farms)
You can find Kandarian Organic Farm's products online, in local grocery stores, and at Farmers Markets. Presently, Larry is selling native California milkweed, which he encourages everyone to put in your gardens to protect the butterflies! You can learn all about why on the farm’s website, and Instagram!
Slow Money SLO exists to support folks like Larry because we think food, farming, and soil fertility matter! We would love to have you join us in our work through volunteering, donating, and/or investing!