The story behind Blossom’s Farm involves the beloved dairy cow after which it is named, 17 acres of land in Corralitos surrounded by a “skin” of California oaks, and two farmers whose passion and way of life are impossible to separate.
Carin Fortin and Delmar McComb spend their daylight hours working the land and tending to farm animals, selling their herbal remedies at four weekly farmers markets, and, whenever they can, participating in biodynamic conferences. In the evenings, “we read about plants, and our books about herbalism and farming and spirituality,” says Fortin.
To me, the founders of the biodynamic Blossom’s Farm are proof that living fully inside of a passion can manifest one’s wilder dreams. In this case, the wild dream is Blossom’s Farmstore and Coffee Shop—a threefold endeavor that is part local organic produce market, part “farmacy,” and part cafe—which opened this month in the historic Five Mile House market, just down the road from their farm. The opening marks the end of the adobe’s decade-long vacancy, and, with the help of family members, farm apprentices and a local customer base, the beginning of a health-conscious community hub that promises to continue evolving.
Beyond an entryway lined with neatly labeled produce baskets, and beyond the light-filled apothecary, is the new cafe—Fortin and McComb’s largest undertaking in the fully renovated market space. A mural of tiny cows dancing below crescent moons marks the passageway toward hot coffee, and a technicolor carpet warms the seating area—once the site of gasoline pumps in the building’s original 1929 service-station design, before it was converted to a natural foods market in 1970.
“There will be workshops in here,” says Fortin. Behind her, human-sized herbs climb the walls, radiating sunlight and other energies rendered visible by the artist. Glowing minerals feed the roots of a dandelion; its seed parachutes drift to the eves. The paintings of Yumiko East illustrate the more ethereal aspects of biodynamics—a method of conscious agriculture that fuses ancient wisdom and planetary knowledge with ethics and the highest of environmental standards—where words fall short.
In keeping with its overall mission, the food and beverages coming out of the new cafe are sourced as locally as possible. Coffee and espresso is from Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting—“they were the first ones who were talking about sustainability and organic coffee, and they were really groundbreaking,” says Fortin—and the soups, salads and a daily frittata are made from local organic and biodynamic produce and eggs.
“Our philosophy was always ‘food is medicine and medicine is food,’ so this place really gives us the opportunity to live that,” says Fortin.
Similar to Ayurvedic thought, Fortin and McComb believe a healthy gut is a fundamental foundation to good health and mental clarity. Indeed, the very first Blossom’s products were digestive tonics and bitters, which quickly amassed a following and remain popular. Blossom’s’ sauerkrauts and a new line of fermented beverages—handcrafted kvass, jun (kombucha made with green tea and Blossom’s honey) and water kefirs—are probiotic-rich extensions of the same gut-angled intention. Even the sourdough bagels (sourced from Wildstone Bakery in Boulder Creek) are sprouted, because they are easier to digest.
“I think it’s very common in America that people have leaky gut syndrome,” says Fortin. “The problem with that is toxins reach your brain unfiltered, which can lead to migraines, brain fog, severe allergies, or simply dullness.”
She serves whole milk, because she believes in the enzymes and healthy fats in dairy, as well as oat and coconut milk alternatives, with the option to add a ghee or coconut oil shot to any beverage. There are no concentrates or syrups—chai tea, golden milk (a turmeric latte) and honey lavender lattes are made from scratch.
“You don’t usually think of a coffee shop as health-food central, but our foods tend to be,” says McComb.
The pastry case at Blossom’s brims with house-made treats that are dense in nutrients and healthy fats, like a cashew butter chocolate cup, and “Great Balls of Fiber”—which are way better than they sound, trust me, and pack an energizing herbal punch. For those in the mood to fully indulge, there are Ashby Chocolates.
Agricultural Take Back
The greatest irony of living in an area rich with organic farms—some of them more than 30 years old, notes McComb, listing off several neighboring farms—is that access to local produce is almost nonexistent.
“The small markets [in Watsonville and Corralitos] carry a bit of produce, but it’s not local. Then you have the chains, Safeway or Nob Hill. When we go shopping, we feel like we have to go to the farmers market, or go north to Staff of Life or New Leaf,” says McComb.
Blossom’s Farmstore is answering that need, with a seasonal selection of organic and biodynamic produce sourced from Blossom’s, Blue Heron and Live Earth farms, among others.
“I hope our farm can provide kind of the more obscure things that are not really commercially buyable, but would be a draw here,” says McComb, who, fresh from a cow’s birth, has dropped in to check the produce baskets and restock. “I hope people will start coming in as we develop, just to see ‘what do they have today?’”
January is still the off-season for produce, but the novelty is already apparent: A jar of fresh ashitaba leaves, a potent herb endemic to Japan that is being studied for cancer, sits among the produce. Ashitaba is one of some 100 medicinal herbs grown at Blossom’s Farm (it’s a crucial player in Blossom’s “Longevity Elixir” a five-herb blend of adaptogens), but you can also eat the leaves straight. “You could call it an acquired taste,” says McComb. “It’s more just something unfamiliar—like lovage celery, but more mild.”
I choose a bunch of kale I’ve never seen before. It’s a purple tree kale, I learn, which contains more nutrients than the usual kale: “Because it’s a perennial it extends its roots deep into the soil and brings up more minerals,” says McComb.
But for Fortin and McComb, providing local produce where there wasn’t any before is not something to brag about if local farmworkers can’t afford it, too. The kale sets me back just $2, and the fruit—today, a spectrum of citrus and apples sourced from Mann’s, Fruitilicious Farm, and Ken’s Top Notch—is priced at an accessible $3 per pound.
Nature’s Medicine Cabinet
As for the apothecary, where neat rows of tincture bottles line the walls and shelves, framed by the building’s original stained glass windows, there is really nothing like it.
“We would like to offer free health services, either massage or acupressure, or similar services to field workers of the region, and also reduced-priced dietary supplements,” says Fortin. “We really see it as a community hub.”
The brick-and-mortar “farmacy,” means locals now have access six days a week to Blossom’s entire line of bitters and tonics, more than 30 single-herb tinctures, hydrosols, first aid salves, ear drops, cosmetic creams, and a magic cold sore remedy that I can personally endorse as life-saving, just to name a few.
“We have everything that we have at the market, plus more in the pipeline,” says Fortin, who embraces an anthroposophic approach to health that works on balancing the body’s three systems. Info sheets provide a background read on the herbs’ medicinal properties.
In the spring, they’ll sell vegetable and herb starts. “We would like to empower people to grow their own gotu kola and ashitaba, which is totally doable here. As well as jiaogulan, a southern Chinese adaptogenic herb which is a blood pressure regulator and longevity herb, and also easy to grow here,” Fortin says.
Then, she’s off to feed the cows.
Blossom’s Farmstore and Coffee Shop is open from 6am-6pm Tuesday-Sunday. blossomsfarm.com.