A rumination on the land from a board member living far away, on the progress of the first year

The first time I saw Terra Cultura, it was June of 2018.

From the main drag, we pulled onto a road lined in rosemary, lavender, and ferns. Travis met us at the bottom of the steep, holey drive and wind-milled his arms in encouragement as our rental car fought its way onto the property. We rummaged for our boots and stepped out into several inches of dry dust. It’d been in my mind for so long that being there felt strange–thrilling, but alien. I’d started hearing about the farm, this wild art-farm, years before as Jessica, Travis, and Rachel worked their day-jobs and planned for this dream. When I joined the Board, Terra Cultura was still looking for a home. Not anymore.

Carolyn White and her fellow board members help to build the first check-log terraces on the land in June 2018.

They’d had the property since April, and those two months’ of hard labor showed even if it was still rough around the edges: tumbleweeds of chicken-wire, a once-rabbit hutch repainted a cheery purple, a dead tree full of young woodpeckers, and the sandy incline cut with the evidence of erosive rains but shored up with a new berm. As we went up the hill, a fire pit ringed in chairs, a trail through the eucalyptus, a big view of Big Sur. Jessica, Travis, and Rachel took us through the plans, describing the food forest, the terraces, the all access garden. The Board helped build the first check-log terrace the next day, cutting, and carrying downed eucalyptus logs to lay between driven stakes. Potential, I kept thinking. Potential but work. Work, work, work.

The second time I saw Terra Cultura, it was October.

The first check-log terrace vegetable row crops with cover crop in Winter 2019.

After several dry months, the rosemary and lavender and ferns look parched, but the driveway we pull into is now smoothly packed full. We stand in the middle of the new parking pad and marvel. The gravel company up the road lent a hand, Travis explains over the muted roar of the drill, which after a week at the top of the property has almost completed drilling the new well. There is still dust, and eucalyptus, and little bits of chicken wire here and there, but there is also a hill of finished terraces ready for crops. Native pollinators sit in gallon buckets awaiting planting. The invasive eucalyptus grove has been thinned to make room for the first members of Terra Cultura’s food forest and nearby, the raised platform for a Classroom Yurt. In the evening, we turn on the soon-to-be-obsolete temporary pump and water the berms and plants. Jessica and I lug watering cans to the property line and douse the young manzanita and lavender which will someday form Terra Cultura’s hedgerow. And it’s then in the fading light that I spot a white rabbit, spotted like a cow and inarguably out-of-place hopping around in a stand of dusty horehound. The last domestic rabbit from the previous tenants’ operation, Jessica says, which when they first bought the property still made its home under the hutch. She seems matter of fact; I feel like I’ve seen a unicorn.

After I’ve left, I watch from Pittsburgh as potential plus works makes progress, marveling as photographs on Terra Cultura’s Instagram capture a property turned brilliant green with cover crops. Neighbors visit, an intern joins the team. A CSA is on its way and on site workshops too. The first yurt, to be used as a classroom, graces its platform by a fledgling forest of pineapple guava and apple. A year of erosion control has been a success; sand and dust has given way to rich topsoil. Volunteers from UC Santa Cruz spend a day prepping beds, and suddenly, there are vegetables in the terraces: broccoli and arugula, red cabbage, and kale. I imagine the last rabbit, munching on that hill of green grass all winter, unsure how exactly she got so lucky but glad that she did. I can’t wait for her to see what’s coming next.

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