Q&A: Dawn Weisberg of Tularosa Farm - Modern Farmer

Q&A: Dawn Weisberg of Tularosa Farm

The week's winner is a costume designer turned farmer.

From there the desire for a lifestyle centered on producing healthy food for themselves and others, and their discovery of permaculture, led them to move to rugged Northern San Diego County where they founded Tularosa Farm and De Luz Permaculture last August on five acres of land.

Weisberg, 44, seems an unlikely farmer at first blush. She’s spent her life living in big cities, from Miami to New York to LA, has a background in costume design for the entertainment industry. But that hasn’t stopped her and McCann from pursuing their agrarian dreams.

The couple’s farm already has lime, orange, and macadamia trees, and Weisberg says they will be planting an array of heirloom and native tree crops, fruits, and vegetables that are adapted to lower water use, including pomegranate, artichoke, lima beans, and persimmon. The farm will also be a learning center for alternative agricultural methods.

Modern Farmer: Why do you consider yourself a modern farmer?

Dawn Weisberg: I am a modern farmer who learns by observing the surrounding nature to understand the best practices to use in growing food with nature instead of against it. We have a long history as humans of extracting the most we can from things. The modern farming that we practice at Tularosa farm enriches and recharges the land, and the water, while giving us what we need to thrive, and to feed others healthy, chemical free, nutrient-dense delicious food. In addition to being a working farm Tularosa Farm and De Luz Permaculture, will be a learning center for alternative modern methods of farming, natural building – and particularly important for California – techniques that harvest rainwater, reuse greywater, and shape the landscape in ways that harness runoff water, and store it in the ground for the use of row crops and tree crops.

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MF: Why is it important to you to support local agriculture?

DW: The more local your food, the greater the nutrition and the less of an energy footprint you make on the environment. Eating local – whether you grow your own, support local farmers markets, or eat at restaurants that use local ingredients – supports your local economy, and keeps you more connected to the real seasonality of fresh produce and meats. It connects us to nature when we eat according to the seasons. Plus, local food tastes better because it’s fresh and didn’t have to be picked green, and flown or trucked thousands of miles.

MF: If you could grow or raise any food or animal, what would it be and why?

DW: I’m really interested in chestnuts. They are such a wonderful food. They can go savory or sweet, they can be made into flour for gluten-free bread, and they are beautiful trees that can grow for over a hundred years.

MF: What’s your favorite vegetable?

DW: That’s a hard one! I love vegetables. My favorite vegetable of the moment is the tromboncino, also known as zucchetta rampicante. It’s amazing because it can be used young like a huge, but tender zucchini or allowed to mature into a winter squash which keeps till spring of the next year. You can use it as Thanksgiving decorations and still eat it at Christmas. It grows into things that look like 3-foot-long butternut squash and have a similar taste. In Italy they use it to stuff ravioli and for soup.

MF: If you could give other modern farmers any advice, what would it be?

DW: You can do it – even if you don’t have a farming background or come from a farming lineage. The old ways aren’t the only ways, and there is so much incredible information out there and examples of people who are farming in so many different and new ways. Also it’s ok to go slow; get to know your land, your microclimate, your resources, and your market. Go small and scale up as you learn, and grow, and gain knowledge and experience.

MF: Do you have a farming/agricultural hero? Why do you admire them?

DW: I have many farming heroes because we’re lucky enough to be living in a time when farmers are innovating in incredible ways. The top of my list, and the reason I took a chance leaving behind city life, is Geoff Lawton. His teaching, passion, enthusiasm, and the work he is doing worldwide to teach people to farm in harmony with the earth is what inspired and motivated me to completely change the direction of my life. After him, Mark Sheppard, Joel Salatin, Sepp Holzer, and many more who are laying a foundation for a farming future that looks better and brighter for us and the planet.

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