As a small farmer and a small business owner the margins of profit are not large. Joanna believes the risks and hard work are worth the effort. As a poet and a dancer Joanna appreciates the work; the seeding, weeding, harvesting, and selling. To wake up and put on boots and work clothes, a hat too, and go out to the farm is a privilege worth the effort. To walk out to the fields and watch things grow, the seasons change, the birds and insect life come and go, is a privilege worth the effort. To provide her community with local sustainable flowers is a privilege worth the effort. And to protect the soil, biodiversity, and ecosystems is a privilege worth the effort.
Bluma was started by owner and operator Joanna Letz in the fall of 2014. Joanna started farming in 2008 and fell in love with the life and work. Since then Joanna has dreamed of one day starting her own farm.
She apprenticed on numerous farms in California including; Heaven and Earth Farm near Nevada City, Green Gulch Farm and Zen Center in Muir Beach. Joanna also completed the UC Santa Cruz Farm and Garden Program (CASFS) where she received a Certificate in Ecological Horticulture. Most recently she was the Garden Manager at Slide Ranch in West Marin. At Slide she had the opportunity to grow over 100 varieties of vegetables and flowers. Now in her seventh season as a farmer she was ready to take the leap to start her own business and farm.
Joanna thought about beginning a farming career after she traveled for eight months with a group of students to five countries looking at the affects of globalization on small farmers. She was disheartened by many of the things she saw happening to small farmers across the globe. It was on this trip that Joanna realized the importance of small organic and diversified farms. In part as a response to the current trend around the world of “get big or get out” she decided to see what working on a small diversified organic farm was really about. She apprenticed for a number of years before managing a small farm herself. Joanna had the great opportunity to work with and learn from many long time organic farmers in California. Joanna wants to make her livelihood farming. For Joanna farming is a way of life. A re-connection to the cycles of life, the seasons, and to some of the very basic things we depend on; plants. She started farming with a desire to work with her hands, be outside, and be of service to people and the planet. As a farmer she never has a dull moment. Joanna feels priviledged to be involved in growing flowers and taking care of the soil, waterways, land, air, and people.
Joanna’s family are all Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. Her Mother’s family came to this country just after WWII. Her grandparents survived in hiding in Poland. Her Mother was born in a Displaced Persons camp in Munich just before the family received visas to come to the U.S. They quickly settled in Farmingdale New Jersey where other Jews and survivors landed. For some time they were chicken farmers as well as Christmas tree farmers. But with the advent of the refrigerated trains small egg producers couldn't compete with the large farms. The family could no longer make a living from the egg production as the bigger producers could charge significantly less for their product.
Joanna’s Father’s family were also chicken farmers but on the West Coast in Rancho Cucamunga, Los Angeles. Her father’s family had wanted to be farmers for some time. They also tried to make farming work but ultimately they could not sustain the family on the farm.
Joanna’s Grandfather Isaac Silber kept a large garden. This was Joanna’s first exposure to plants and farming. Joanna vividly remembers the wild zucchini plants and her Grandfather’s delicious honey. It was these memories that helped bring her into the farming world. Her grandparents on both sides had hoped to make a livelihood off of farming. Now Joanna is taking up that torch of farming. In Europe farming was something most families did at least on the kitchen garden scale. Growing plants was normal for her grandparents. In much of our culture in the U.S. today growing plants is somewhat outside the norm. But growing plants and food is coming back into focus with urban farms popping up around the country.
Joanna studied History and Human Rights in College. She believes farming and enjoying fresh vegetables and flowers is a basic human right. She believes that food and farming has the potential to bring people together. Joanna believes farming has a positive effect on people's lives. She hopes to bring many people to her farm and encourage more people to grow plants!
Engaging with plants and dirt day in and day out is a privilege Joanna relishes in. But farming is no romantic career. Farming is hard work and you can’t always know what the weather will bring or what new insect will come along and eat up your crop before you can harvest. As a small farmer and a small business owner the margins of profit are not large. Joanna believes the risks and hard work are worth the effort.