When Berkeley Food Network member Anders Olson graduated from UC Berkeley in 2010 in the midst of an economic slump, he thought long and hard about how his work in the world might make a difference. His father encouraged him to think like an entrepreneur while also considering the Buddhist notion of “Right Livelihood” – earning a living while doing good. Andy’s parents were avid gardeners, and he learned about growing food at a young age. Ultimately, he decided that “nothing’s more fundamental than growing vegetables,” and he set out to establish Olson Family Farms.
Andy has been running Olson Family Farms in the Petaluma Valley for 4 years now. His small team farms a wide variety of vegetables – kale, lettuce, dandelion, herbs, summer and winter squash and lots of tomatoes — on 5 acres. They sell most of their produce directly to restaurants in the East Bay, San Francisco and Petaluma.
Olson Family Farms is very resource conscious. “One of our core guiding principles is to be of net benefit to our community, the environment, and in terms of climate change,” Andy says. “We want to make sure that all of our produce is consumed and not wasted. Food waste contributes to climate change. When resources are conserved that’s how we get to a better future.”
He embraces the local, organic, sustainable food movement, but believes it should be accessible to everyone – not just people who can afford to pay premium prices.
Andy learned about the Berkeley Food Network (BFN) from Sara Webber, BFN’s executive director. He was looking for outlets for his extra produce and Sara offered to help. Andy started making distributions to the Berkeley Food Pantry, saying, “Sara makes it so much easier for me to make donations. A lot of organizations require that you take donations to a specific place at a specific time, but I’m always out in the field. Sara comes to my house at 7am and picks up the donations and takes them to wherever they need to go.”