Growing Sustainable Memories
Just north of San Francisco on Gospel Flats as you enter the Marin County town of Bolinas, California sits Aggie Murch’s seven-acre Blackberry Farm. Known as a counterculture enclave for poets, writers, artists and environmentalists, Bolinas also offers rich soil for growing organic fruits and vegetables, and plenty of solar energy to harvest as well.
Blackberry Farm supplies its neighbors, select local co-ops, caterers, herbalists and restaurants with succulent, seasonal rhubarb, Jerusalem artichokes, pears, English and American heirloom apples, Greengafe plums, Meyer lemons, lavender, calendula, comfrey root, a few eggs and, of course, blackberries. A few times a year, the farm opens its doors and Aggie serves tea while visitors help thin the apple tree blossoms. On an autumn weekend each year the cherry wood cider press, built by John Perry, is brought out, washed off and put to work on the farm. Friends, farmers and filmmakers bring their own apples and the families make fresh apple cider. “We are small in terms of what we produce,” Aggie says. “As much as anything, we make events and memories that feed a way of living.”
In 1972, Aggie and her husband, film editor and sound designer Walter Murch, came to what was then known as the Old Peters Dairy and rebirthed it into Blackberry Farm. It became the home where they raised children, horses, a few chickens and a vegetable garden. Growing up in England where she learned to appreciate the land and adapted a sense of low-impact stewardship, Aggie was sensitive to natural surroundings. “The soil is what we care for, what we nurture,” she explains.
These days, Aggie’s children are grown, and she’s become one of the old guard among neighborhood farmers. Aggie — as Muriel Murch — produces radio programs for the FM station KWMR.org.
A few years ago, it made sense to take the next step in land stewardship and convert Blackberry Farms to solar. Aggie connected with Real Goods Solar at a Marin Organic appreciation dinner. Real Goods Solar Power Consultant Jennie Dito worked with Aggie to develop the right system to meet the farm’s needs, and the 6kW grid-tie installation was completed in September 2008. The barn now features a sleek line of 27 solar panels that provide 80% of the electricity for the farm. The system easily handles the farm’s biggest electrical draws: pumping water and running a cooler for the fresh eggs that neighbors purchase, along with fresh produce, on weekends. Solar also powers most of the home’s energy needs. “Converting to solar was the right thing to do,” Aggie says. “We are taking the sun’s energy and returning it to the Earth.”
27 SPR 225W panels
1 SMA 6000m