Windrose is a small family farm located east of Paso Robles, near Creston, in San Luis Obispo County. Tucked in a unique valley of 50 acres, 12 are in vegetable rotations, 6 are in apples and stone fruit and 5 are sheep pasture. The rest is habitat – full of animal, bird and insect life who usually help them.
Owners Bill & Barbara Spencer have been organic and were certified with C.C.O.F. from August 1999 to 2009, but are currently transitioning to biodynamic! The farm has been “clean” for twenty years; since its purchase in 1990. For the first three years, Bill worked to bring life back to the soil with compost and cover-cropping yearly. Windrose has the luxury of adjacent horse farms, one of whom delivers!
In 1993 Windrose began going to the Farmer’s Markets with produce from their first small market garden. At that time both Bill & Barbara were involved in other occupations. Bill was in real estate locally and Barbara was commuting weekly from Los Angeles, working as a studio musician. Then at the end of 1995 they took the plunge into full-time farming. Having already discovered the enjoyment of growing many “specialty” varieties of vegetables – most particularly heirloom tomatoes and potatoes, they also found they loved selling to wonderful restaurants as well as to their friends at Farmer’s Markets.
It has been a joy for the Spencer’s to see the tasty dishes prepared by the talented chefs at restaurants such as Patina, Campanile, Melisse and Lucques in Los Angeles. In 2002 , Windrose became a member of the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market.
1998 saw the addition of the apple orchard. Working with Terry and Carolyn Harrison of Sonoma Antique Apples, Windrose planted 40 different varieties – including antique types that are specific for eating, baking, sauce and cider. It has been amazing to Bill & Barbara to see and taste how different apples can be. They are now in the process of evaluating which are the most successful on their farm.
In addition to tomatoes and potatoes, Windrose grows onions, garlic, green and dry beans, peppers, eggplant, winter squash, carrots, turnips, beets, cucumbers, melons and many varieties of greens. They also have the apples and stone fruit. Their little valley is a unique micro-climate that is good for the diverse crops of lilacs, apples, super-sweet onions and melons.
Bill & Barbara state that “The longer we farm, the more enthralled we are with the old traditional seeds and plants. We strive as much as possible to use open-pollinated or heirloom varieties and have begun our own seed-saving program. Every day brings us more knowledge and a stronger belief in the principals and practices of sustainable organic farming. It is complex and labor-intensive – but the burst of life in the soil and the habitat of our little valley is astonishing.”
In 1998 Windrose began opening the farm two times a year for the Spring Open House in April and the Tomato Tasting the third week-end of September. What began as a way to say thank you to their friends and customers has evolved into a whole new focus for Windrose. They have always believed that this beautiful spot was more than just a “food machine” and should be shared with as many as possible.
The Spencer’s wish to express their thanks to all their friends, customers, and especially the wonderful fellow market farmers who have been so generous with their knowledge. All share in the past and future growth of Windrose Farm.