October 2, 2018

The Gentlewoman Farmer

Over the years, many times by many people, I have been called a “Gentleman Farmer”. To be honest, I don’t like that name. To me, it sounds like something rich people do – hiring other people to do the work – and that’s just not my style. But today, I did a little research, I actually checked to see what the dictionary says. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines Gentleman Farmer as: a man who farms mainly for pleasure rather than for profit. Well, I’ll be damned, I am a gentleman farmer!  Or, better stated, I am married to a Gentlewoman Farmer. You see, my wife Sharon is an avid gardener and a prolific farmer. Me, I’m an occasional laborer – I run irrigation, I till the beds, I shovel soil, and I always complain (loudly) about it! But her unwavering love of seeing a tiny seed planted in rich soil grow into something absolutely magnificent allows her to put up with all of my bellyaching! And, honestly, I love it too, especially now during harvest time (just not as much as my wife does!).

With the bounty of Autumn upon us, I thought it only appropriate to share some of the fun things coming out of Bartolomei Farms right now. To the best of my recollection, here’s a somewhat comprehensive list of what I think we’re growing right now (Sharon will tell me I forgot 20 things!):

Apples Heirloom Tomatoes Pears
Asian Pears Herbs Pumpkins
Bell Peppers Honey Raspberries
Blueberries Hot Peppers Strawberries
Cherry Tomatoes Kale Summer Squash
Corn Lettuces Sunflowers
Cucamelons Microgreens Tigermelons
Cucumbers Onions Watermelons
Fennel Ornamental Flowers Winter Squash
Figs Passion fruit Zucchini


So where does all of this go? To my family of course – my poor kids have to eat more fruits and veggies than anyone I know.  And our black lab, Cookie, must eat a thousand pears every fall (she’s just weird that way). We share a lot with friends and our community and, of course, our chickens and turkeys and occasional livestock get all the scraps and remnants.

But the best of the best is reserved for Farmhouse. Almost everything we serve here at Farmhouse is sourced locally from local gardens just like mine.

Chef Steve Litke is a picky guy and if it’s not perfect, he doesn’t want it! So where does our produce show up? Well, all the microgreens come from us (those are the tiny pea, sunflower, basil… shoots that we garnish everything with). As do the flowers we garnish with. You’ll see occasionally pickled cucamelons or compressed watermelon salad on the menu from our garden. And the honey makes it into lots of things (including the Warming Ginger Honey Massage in the spa). So, yes, he gets first dibs on everything! The pastry team loves the apples, pears, passion fruit, and figs for baking into breads and cakes. The breakfast team will work just about anything savory into an omelet or a scramble. And Farmstand takes as many big fat heirloom tomatoes, for burgers and BLTS, as we can get them!

The amazing thing about living in Sonoma is that we enjoy a near perfect climate for growing wine grapes AND a near prefect climate for growing just about everything else, too! It really is a joy to live and farm here and, despite all my grumbling, I really am proud of what we (mostly Sharon!) grow!

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