COUPLE FINDS SPOT FOR CONSCIENTIOUS FARMING IN HALF MOON BAY
By Carina Woudenberg
For human visitors, Sweet Farm — a 12.5-acre slice of open space situated along Tunitas Creek Road — evokes a sense of spirited calm. They are likely to be ushered in with the help of coastal fog and color-filled bursts of dahlias and sweet peas.
For the animals residing on the property, however, the space provides more than just a coastal backdrop on which to graze or frolic. For the six goats, three sheep, 60 chickens, five roosters, two steers, a stallion, three ducks, a llama and countless other animals that reside there, the land supplies a sanctuary from mistreatment and a guarantee that they won’t end up on someone’s dinner plate.
Anna Sweet and husband Nate Salpeter purchased the property in 2015 after a job opportunity for Sweet transplanted the couple from Seattle to the Bay Area. Both animal lovers, Sweet and Salpeter had talked about starting up a farm while in Seattle and decided that they would take advantage of the move as a way to put plans into action.
The nonprofit’s mission essentially has two components. First is to rescue and rehabilitate animals that may have come from poor living situations or might be headed to the slaughterhouse. The couple can’t take on as many animals as they would like to but the animals they do have serve as ambassadors for their species, they say. This folds into the nonprofit’s second main component which revolves around education and outreach.
“(You) can make an impact regardless of where you fall on the spectrum of diets,” said Salpeter.
Often people will approach whether to eat meat from an all-or-nothing approach. Salpeter says he’ll hear people say things like, “I can’t be vegan because I can’t give up chocolate,” but that doesn’t mean you can’t play a part in improving the status quo.
“One vice shouldn’t prevent you from making a large impact in other areas where you can carry it through,” Salpeter said.
Salpeter counts himself as a pescatarian because he will eat fish, occasionally. He also eats eggs, but tries to avoid dairy unless its sneaked into the occasional baked good he consumes. Sweet is a little more strict. She counts herself as vegan with the exception of the eggs produced by the Sweet Farm chickens.
With 60 chickens running around, the couple gets a lot of eggs, which they give away to friends and supporters of the farm. The chickens reside in a 10,000-square-foot area that is loosely fenced. When Salpeter opened the gates to the chickens’ stomping grounds on a recent afternoon, a few took the opportunity to spill out into the unfenced area.
“The gates are more of a suggestion,” Salpeter said when asked whether the chickens needed to be brought inside. The couple says the eggs are a key component to spreading their message; after people try them they usually want to know more. “The first question they ask is ‘Why do your eggs taste so much better than eggs I’ve had?’” said Sweet. “Happy hens are going to make better eggs,” said Salpeter. “That’s a selling point for their welfare.”
In addition to the animals, the couple also plants a variety of heirloom vegetables. Neither Sweet, who’s worked in the video game industry for the last 12 years, nor Salpeter, who splits his time between managing the day-to-day tasks of the farm and consulting on nuclear energy projects, has a tremendous amount of agricultural experience.
They rely on their board of directors and volunteers for help in that area. Santa Cruz resident Miranda Roberts serves as the board’s director of agriculture and is primarily responsible for the farm’s garden. Roberts started Fat Cabbage Farm in Pescadero in 2009, but pulled out in 2013 to start a family. She became acquainted with Sweet and Salpeter through her husband who met Sweet through his work in the tech industry. Roberts says she focuses on heirloom and pollinated varieties as much as possible to combat a growing reliance on the hybridized seed. “We feel like in the home garden and on the small scale it’s a great opportunity to involve those heirlooms and keep them in circulation,” Roberts said.
The farm hosts monthly “member days” that feature a topic of interest for the farm’s members or interested visitors willing to pay $25 for the member status during the day. The events focus around teaching practical tips on gardening or preserving food while allowing the visitors to really take in the experience of being on the farm. “All senses are engaged which is a rare experience to have lately,” said Roberts. “In all of our talks and tours we really want people to smell the flowers and touch the skin of the vegetable.”