Jack Horvitz, HSU soils science major, holding a tray of eggplant starts at Flora Organica farm and nursery. Photo by Tyrone McDonald.

Spring nourishes new growth


Spring time is here. The days are longer, the weather has warmed up and the sun is shinning. Everything is growing.

At Flora Organica farm and nursery the greenhouses are getting full. Fields are being weeded and prepared for planting.

“This is the beginning of the busy season,” Andy Zierer

Andy and his wife Lisa Zierer own and manage Flora Organica in McKinleyville. Flora Organica starts for your garden are sold at Wildberries, the North Coast Co-op and Ace Hardware in Arcata.

“Greenhouses are needed on the coast if you are going to grow peppers, tomatoes and basil,” Andy Zierer said.

The plants in the greenhouse are going to be transplanted into the fields. Peppers that will be planted in the greenhouse now will be ready in June.

The Zierer’s believe the economical and nutritional benefits of growing your own food are extremely rewarding. Andy Zierer’s goal is to grow healthy plants that taste good.

“It’s beyond economical. The taste and the food has much more nutrition than stored food,” Zierer said.

While owner and manager Lisa Zierer has many people to direct and jobs to do, she still has time to say hello and check in to see if anyone needs anything.

The Zierer’s have employed Humboldt State students over the years. Zierer has noticed there have been more rangeland resource science soil majors working for him than students in any other field.

“I have two soil science majors working here now,” Andy Zierer said. “The soil science majors are into learning how things work.”

Jack Horvitz works at Flora Organica and is a soil science major at HSU.

“I have a big passion for food and agriculture. It is pretty fundamental to our society,” Horvitz said.

Horvitz explains the policy decisions in agriculture vary widely according to location, apologizing the benefits and struggles of smaller agriculture farms.

“If we want to have change, we better have more buy-in,” Horvitz said. “Farms in the midwest are thousands of acres. Flora Organica is just four acres. Living in Arcata is nice, but it is living in a bubble inside of a bubble.”

Horvitz would like to see communities getting together and having potlucks at community gardens. Horvitz calls it, “getting the full cycle.”

“Getting your hands in the soil and then sitting down and sharing a meal with everyone at the end of the day, with music,” Horvitz said.

Haley Schmidt is a HSU alumna who really likes her job at Flora Organica.

“These are great people to work for and I really enjoy the farm,” Schmidt said. “They have a great product and they really care about what they do.”

Jarrod Lumley is an anthropology major at HSU who works at Flora Organica. On Saturday nights on the Arcata Plaza, Lumley likes to serve food he and his friends make with leftovers from the farmers market earlier that day.

“There is a lot of upping going on [at Flora Organica],” Lumley said.

Upping is moving the seedling from the seed house and planting it in a four-inch container. Then the four-inch container goes into a bigger greenhouse. From there, some are planted on the farm and some go to the farmers market to be sold as starters.

“Springtime at Flora Organica is a time of cleaning,” Lumley said. “This involves making space for more and more plants through deconstruction, reconstruction and organizing the available space.”

Farmer Eno Riley planting onions at the I and I farm. Photo by Tyrone McDonald.

Flora Organica is bustling with activity, trying to keep up with spring and their customers at the farmers market.

Another local farm, I and I farm in McKinleyville, is a regular booth at the farmers market, owned and managed by Eno and Lauren Riley. Planning, according to Eno Riley, is essential when building a garden.

“There are snails and slugs and birds and pests and bad things you don’t want to have happen,” Eno Riley said.

I and I farm hires students to pick strawberries as a short-term summer job. Students interested are encouraged to ask Eno or Lauren Riley at their stand during the farmers market.

Riley explained a garden layering technique called lasgnage that is possible for anyone to create and maintain.

“You can layer right over your grass on your lawn,” Riley said. “Lay down cardboard, then dirt, and then wood and some more soil, cardboard and soil and you are ready to plant a garden anywhere.”

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