June Art & Ag – Harrison Farms

The Art & Ag project has resumed monthly farm visits!  YoloArts is grateful to our farming partners for opening up their land where artists can learn, explore, and find inspiration.

Photo by Charles Vincent McDonald

Special thanks to our June Art & Ag hosts, Karen and Mark Harrison owners of Harrison Farms in Woodland.  Here are some highlights from our visit.

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Acres of bright, happy sunflowers: that’s the first thing you see after you drive a half a mile down the private road to Harrison Farms. But there’s even more to experience even further down the road.

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The pond surrounded by ancient oaks (complete with a rope swing and canoe, of course) and home to the water fowl and wildlife it attracts. Beyond the pond are acres of walnut orchards that stretch to the west and finally meet up with Cache Creek.

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This is just a fraction of what to explore at Karen and Mark Harrison’s 240-acre property. The farm has been in Mark’s step-grandfather’s family since the 1930s (formally known as Burr Ranch) and Mark and Karen moved here in 2006. It was, according to Karen, “just dirt” and farmed to the margins, with the exception of the heritage oaks and black walnuts. Since then, they have focused on both growing crops and habitat restoration. “My husband had a vision of combining habitat and wilderness with a farming operation and I think we have been able to achieve that.”

With planted habitat corridors in partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Yolo Land Trust (who have an easement here), the Harrisons have been able to maintain the land’s almost rugged and wild state while growing row crops and walnuts. They are currently experimenting with the Mullers on growing seed crops such as kale, mazuna and cilantro.

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They have a rambling family garden and fruit orchard where they are constantly planting new additions. They just finished putting in avocado trees and a heritage apple orchard with English varieties from the 1400s. A busy flock of sheep and chickens add to the family farm ambience.The outbuildings were all rebuilt with the original wood from the old barn, which blew down in 2005. It’s an example of the thoughtfulness here, of bringing the old back into the new which gives this farm a definitive sense of balance with nature.

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It is truly ‘its own world’, with a touch of wildness and the many native plants they propagate and grow. Perfect Swainson’s hawk and barn owl habitat, with quail bush, wild rose, and matilijia poppies along the habitat corridor where you can find shaded areas and clearings with Persian and Turkish oaks besides their native California cousins.