The Vision: Bill and June Thompson
The history of Redwood Roots Farm is intimately tied to Jacoby Creek Valley residents Bill and June Thompson. They are the visionaries behind the conservation easement that is on the land where the farm is situated. The Thompsons' passion for farmland preservation grew out of experiences while traveling through some of the country's major agricultural areas during the Great Peace March of 1986. They witnessed firsthand how economic pressures were forcing farmers off their land, and saw the community-wide effects that resulted. The Thompsons moved to Arcata from their Redwood City residence in 1989, determined to preserve land for organic agriculture and wildlife habitat. During the same year, they bought the parcel where Redwood Roots Farm is now located; realizing that their ownership of the land was just the first step in its preservation, they also began working to create a legal structure that would ensure the parcel could not be developed or subdivided in the future.
Bill and June Thompson
The Thompsons knew that a conservation easement could help them accomplish their objectives. A conservation easement is a voluntary, legally binding agreement that limits certain types of land uses and development from taking place on a piece of property in perpetuity. Such an agreement constitutes a transfer of usage rights, protecting a property's ecological or open-space values by separating the right to subdivide and build on the property from the other rights of ownership. However, to be legally enforceable, the terms of a conservation easement must be written into a deed and be monitored by a qualified land protection organization.
Such an organization did not yet exist when the Thompsons arrived to the area, so in 1992 Bill and June helped form the Jacoby Creek Land Trust, a non-profit organization that became the vehicle for accepting a conservation easement on their land. Once these legal requirements were met, the Thompsons knew the right farmer would join them in their venture. Redwood Roots Farm is proud to be a part of Bill and June's original vision.
The Farm: Janet Czarnaki
Redwood Roots Farm was founded by Erin Anderson in the fall of 1997 at its original half-acre site on Anvick Lane. T Griffin soon joined Erin in her venture; the two women completed the farm's first season in 1998, after which Erin left the farm in T's hands. In 1999, farmer Janet Czarnecki partnered with T, and it was that year that the farm was established on the Thompson's Jacoby Creek parcel. Janet became the sole proprietor in 2002, and in 2004 was able to make the remarkable step of purchasing the land from the Thompsons. Janet's skills, energy, and commitment to community enabled the farm to grow stronger and more diverse. Her hard work and dedication carried Redwood Roots Farm through 24 years. During that time, Janet organized, mentored and lead the many hands that have contributed to the success of Redwood Roots Farm, from seasonal crew farmers to volunteers and interns.
In 2019, Redwood Roots Farm lost its lease to well access. Through fundraising efforts, her personal contributions, and an overflowing of community support, Janet was able to have a well drilled, electricity installed, and a whole water system of pumps and holding tanks put in place to keep the farm alive.
Under Janet's ownership and stewardship, Redwood Roots Farm has thrived as more than just a farm, but as a community.
Above: Janet Czarnecki and T Grifffin circa year 2000. Below: Janet Czkarnecki with the completion of the well project year 2020.
After 24 years of being the life force of Redwood Roots farm, Janet was ready pass the torch. In fall of 2021, she offered the crew at Redwood Roots the opportunity to buy the farm. This crew of women, Jasmin Segura, Carolan Raleigh-Halsing, and Rhonwen Jennings, had at that time been farming at Redwood Roots for a collective 20 years! (Jasmin-- 9 years, Carolan-- 8 years, and Rhonwen-- 3 years). Given the opportunity to continue doing the work they love, they spent all of 2022 working with Cooperation Humboldt and the North Coast SBDC to form a worker-owned cooperative while also working in the field at Redwood Roots. With an outpouring of support from crowdfunding, personal donations from family, friends and share holders, and their personal contributions, these three women bought the farm and assumed the role of worker-owners of the farm as Redwood Roots Farm Cooperative in November 2022.
We are thrilled to continue stewarding this land in the ethics of the easement put in place by Bill and June Thompson, and the commitment to community shown by Janet Czarnecki. It is a true honor to be a part of Redwood Roots' history.