In The Clover
Davis farm takes fruits to another level
By Gabrielle Myers
Taste Sacramento in summer: thinly sliced bluefin tuna from Sunh Fish, wedges of Blenheim apricots from Cloverleaf Farm, torn basil, a drizzle of lemon juice and pinch of zest from our backyard, a splash of Bariani early harvest olive oil, black sea salt.
The tuna’s red fattiness melts against the orange apricot’s bright tang and basil’s floral aroma.
As I walk through Cloverleaf’s 8-acre orchard on the edge of Davis with the owners, our region’s bounty hits me. Looking up at bright red and orange globes of satiation and nourishment, we munch on snow queen nectarines and Robada apricots in prime ripeness.
The sweetness and acidity are just right, an indication that Cloverleaf waits until fruit reaches peak ripeness before picking. This patience and demand for top quality contrasts with many fruit farmers who pick early to maintain longer storage times and survive rough deliveries.
Collaborative effort is one of Cloverleaf’s many strengths. Tree Sylvan Kilpatrick, Jen Hoover, Emma Torbert and Margot Wilhelm have combined their talents to create a productive and profitable farm.
Kilpatrick is majority owner. He came to Davis in his late 20s for graduate school in international agricultural development, with a focus on agroecology and sustainable agriculture. He held various jobs for two decades in Davis, yet none stuck until he worked at Cloverleaf for seven summers. Then, as he says, he “bought the farm.”
Wilhelm’s background in plant pathology assists the group’s organic efforts. With a master’s degree in plant pathology, she worked in big ag for many years, but was “looking for something with more purpose,” she says.
Cloverleaf helps prepare the next generation of farmers. Tess Kremer, an intern from the Center for Land-Based Learning in Woodland, learned how the farm operates and took on leadership roles.
The commitment to working together reflects in the ownership’s decision to pay living wages to seasonal workers, respect the land and interact with wildlife.
Throughout summer, chickens from a neighboring farm are brought in to fertilize the land, devour weeds and control the insect population.
On the property’s edge, numerous hedges of California native plants create wildlife and insect habitats. Large owl boxes and bee hives stand like sentinels in the hedges, signaling that this orchard works with nature, welcoming it in partnership.
Depending on the season, lacewings, dragonflies and ladybugs thrive in the orchard and hedges. Native elderberry, which the farm uses to make delectable syrups and jams, grows alongside coffeeberry and mugwort. Blue jays click from cottonwoods to Santa Rosa plum trees, which shows how life is cultivated on this small farm.
Cloverleaf practices deficit irrigation, which restricts water to every 10 days or so during the dry season and uses drip irrigation. The strategy not only saves money and water, it helps concentrate fruit flavor.
The orchard’s soil, characteristic of the Davis area which receives fertile Yolo loam from Putah Creek, doesn’t get tilled. It’s replenished each year with a nitrogen fixing cover crop of vetch, bell beans and peas.
As an organic farm, Cloverleaf doesn’t use chemical fertilizers or pesticides. With open air flow, integrate pest management and pheromone disrupters, the farm naturally controls unwanted insects. Minimal use of copper and sulfur sprays in the off-season help to organically control diseases.
The health of birds, insects and wildlife on the farm are an indication that Cloverleaf’s practices enhance all life and will benefit humans in untold ways. The collaborative approach can be a model to create a vibrant, sustainable world for everyone.
Find Cloverleaf at the Sacramento and Davis food co-ops, Arden Fair Mall farmers market and in Cloverleaf’s weekly CSA during growing season. Visit thecloverleaffarm.com.
Gabrielle Myers can be reached at email@example.com. Her latest book of poetry, “Too Many Seeds,” can be ordered from fishinglinepress.com. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento