Torrey Olsen runs Gabriel Farm, an Asian pear and apple orchard located near the Northern California towns of Sebastopol and Forestville.
For Torrey, “sustainability” is a loaded term that can be hard to properly define. At Gabriel Farm, the Olsens love their work because it connects them directly to the soil, raising crops that feed people in the region. Everyone needs to eat, so it makes sense to consume fruits that are grown using organic, non-toxic methods. The Olsens hope to farm their land for many years, so any steps to achieve that goal would fall under the umbrella of sustainability. To be fully sustainable, however, a farm needs to be ecologically, idealistically, and economically sustainable. Economics need to be addressed before any other aspect of sustainability can work — that’s the simple truth.
Gabriel Farm’s primary source of energy comes from 56 solar panels on the property, which power the house, the cooler, the pump, the well —nearly everything on the farm. Before installing the panels, Torrey was paying a huge electrical bill. Now, the farm’s energy source is clean and self-contained, which has helped to ensure its economic sustainability.
Although things may not be easy for the Olsen family’s business, Torrey has continued to reinvent and diversify Gabriel Farm in other sustainable ways. Besides the solar panels, he’s chosen to bring chickens and sheep onto the farm. First, chicken manure makes for an excellent, all-natural fertilizer. Next, sheep mow the cover crops, which are planted to improve soil fertility and quality. This frees up Torrey to focus on more important aspects of crop cultivation, instead of using a diesel tractor to kick up dirt and mow the land less efficiently.
Taking care of the soil and raising crops without harmful methods can really go a long way. Not only do organic fruits come from a sustainable source, but they taste much better than the genetically modified produce you find in the supermarket.