Viriditas Farm, Capay Valley, CA
The first time I traveled to Sally Fox's farm, the wind picked up just after I turned onto the 505 heading into the Northern Central Valley amidst vast fields of low lying crops with nothing to break the gusts. We'd been in a dry spell and dust became like rain making gauze of the view through my windshield. Two left turns and twenty miles later, Capay Valley gives pause to the bolder parts of this weather with hills on either side and trees to break and shade but Sally's farm is definitively of this expansive California landscape with its showy sky and polemic patterns of rain or drought. Straddling both sides of Road 15, Viriditas Farm stretches across 130 acres of crop fields and gently worn hills, a bold color study of flaxen and shifting shades of green depending upon crop and time of year. The belle of the field is Sally's naturally colored organic cotton, which she's devoted her life to developing through a highly tuned breeding program and a biodynamic approach to farming. Sally Fox is renowned. She's kissed fame in both business and politics with her brave commitment to advancing ethical stewardship of our agricultural inheritance and coming to know her is one of the great gifts of relationship in my life and in my work.
Visiting Viriditas, there is a clear sense of scale in the maze of industrial artifacts and large farm machinery for irrigation and harvest. Even the finished yarn and yards of cloth are kept tucked away in an old shipping container where we routinely battle the dark to dig out inventory. On most trips we spend time walking the perimeter of the crop field as communion with that particular moment of growth. I've loved seeing the cotton flower while the bees hummed along in straight rows and did the work we need them to do. I've equally loved seeing the bolls emerge in burnt umber and celery green, almost animal in their billowy bouquet. On the day that we took these photographs, the cotton had been replaced by Sonora Wheat to sell for milling into flour and Teff to feed the flock of 140 Merino sheep. Cotton wasn't planted this year as the drought keeps mystery of when the wells will run dry and food ranks precedent over fiber. Last year's cotton harvest awaits the gin under tarps in a trailer parked beneath Sally's shed, a monolith of jewels so precious in their bloom, so exquisite in their blush.
PHOTOGRAPHY: VALEDA BEACH STULL