The Story Behind Pozo Organic Farm
Dreams don’t just come true, somebody once said and it certainly is true of Pozo Organic Farm. Dana Tryde and Eric Michielssen met in 1999 and fell in love. They shared a love of horses and endurance running and riding. In the Spring of 2002 they purchased 81 acres off Clark Valley Road and Los Osos Valley Road and developed Clark Valley Farm and Horse Boarding, a certified organic farm and sustainably managed horse facility.
Clark Valley Farm was Eric’s first exposure to actually growing crops. Eric grew up in Watsonville and spent many, many years working at his grandparent’s Buak Fruit Company picking berries, packing fruit and in the lettuce fields loading trucks. Nonetheless, he never actually planted and grew crops. Eric worked very hard on the farm as a kid so he wasn’t really interested in farming after high school. But, he was always planting a big garden or raising animals. The seed to farm was planted as a kid, it just needed a little nurturing.
Along came Dana with a bit of the needed spark. Dana’s grandfather, Professor Hodgson, was the Director of the University of Minnesota experimental farm. She attended Cal Poly, earned a BS in Environmental Biology, worked for years for the National Marine Fisheries Service and did studies at the Diablo Canyon Marine Lab. So, when he and Dana went looking for land for their horses, they purchased a parcel large enough to also farm. Clark Valley Farm was born.
From 2002 thru 2009 they grew 100% organic crops at the Clark Valley Farm and sold their broccoli, lettuce, kale, chard, strawberries, lettuce and many other veggies at six farmer’s markets, to as many as 100 households with their CSA and to local restaurants. Eric notes,
Clark Valley was a fantastic experience both for us and for all the wonderful WWOOF’rs (World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) and interns who helped out at the farm and made it all possible.
The participation of the WWOOF’rs and interns was an important component of Clark Valley Farm in those years. These young men and women put their hearts and labor into making the farm work. Eric and Dana provided room and board, an old car and a few bucks for exploring the area. It was a mutually beneficial arrangement until a disgruntled, neighboring conventional farmer complained to the County. It seems that the nice apartment in the barn wasn’t quite legal. Eric laments,
Being law-abiding citizens, we tore out the place and that was the end of the WWOOF program and Clark Valley Farm like we’d like to run it!
During those years, Dana’s and Eric’s horse riding often took them out to Pozo to ride American Canyon and the hills behind their friend’s RimRock Ranch and High Mountain Road. One of their favorite rides every year was down to the Pozo Saloon for Mother’s Day, tying up their horses to trees and boosting the many kids up in the saddle. The whole Pozo area is a very special place from Santa Margarita Lake to Black Mountain and out to the Garcia and Muchesna Mountain Wilderness areas. Before you knew it, they wanted to enjoy Pozo all year round. It is so peaceful and quiet and a bit of the last wilderness in the County.
After the demise of the WWOOF program, Eric and Dana sold Clark Valley Farm and, with the proceeds, they were able to purchase a dream farm in Pozo.
Eric recognized that being really sustainable means living with what nature has to offer without abusing the environment. That meant building a home and a new farm in Pozo that fully captured the sun’s energy and reducing their footprint on the earth to only what was necessary. Dana and Eric built an energy efficient, passive solar home powered by a solar voltaic electric system. They also installed two well systems for the house and farm both powered by solar voltaics.
In the summers, we often spent over $600 a month for electricity at Clark Valley Farm in Los Osos. But, we reduced our fossil fuel usage and monthly bills to zero for electricity at Pozo Organic Farm, Eric explains. Sustainable also means employing conservation and using only what you need. The farm has a great 40 gallon per minute well, but just pumping water like crazy is not sustainable. So, the farm uses only drip irrigation for all its crops. Water usage on the four acres currently farmed is between 500 and 800 gallons once every 3 days.
Another bonus of the Pozo farm is that starting from scratch allowed Dana and Eric to build the garage with an attached legal apartment for WWOOF’rs and interns. The Pozo Organic Farm history is now being made!