Mike and Pauline Edenholm, owners of Edenberry Farm, sit around the table in their barn, a French press with fresh coffee on a tray in front of them. Their dog Franklin, a.k.a Veuvey, stands underneath, only his tail poking above the table, brightly wagging. The fall morning air still holds a chill, but the fire Mike started in the woodstove soon warms the room. “Please, help yourself to a cup of coffee,” Pauline says as she pulls out a wooden chair, her curly blonde ponytail swinging behind her as she sits.
After a sip of coffee, Pauline begins. “We didn’t always want to be farmers. We’d spent a lot of time traveling for work. Mike worked easily seventy hours a week for a telecom company, and my job as an engineer was equally demanding; I’d sleep with my work clothes on so all I had to do was get up and go. It’s like we never saw each other.”
“Yeah, it was always one more merger, and then things will ease up. But the mergers never stopped coming, and we just knew it was never going to end. Something needed to change,” Mike affirms, rubbing the gray stubble on his chin. He’s dressed for the cool weather in a soft green hoodie; a brighter green bead bracelet peeks out of the sleeve.
“We found this place by accident,” Pauline says, gesturing broadly with her hands. “We were looking for houses in Eureka and ended up staying the night at the Lakeport English Inn.”
Mike gives a big laugh.”We’ve got some friends. Everywhere they visit, they buy something. A trip to Norway? They love the northern lights, so why not buy a property there?” He smiles. “So when we came to Lake County with them, they had to have a place here. We drove them all over the county and fell in love with it ourselves.”
Pauline chips in. “We knew we wanted a farm, and we drove all over. This was our last stop, and we knew this property was perfect. It’s on a busier road, and it’s flat.” She pauses for a second and watches Franklin chewing on something in the doorway. “I don’t know what my dog’s eating. Oh, it’s just a piece of wood.” She moves on. “So we ordered our blackberry and raspberry starts for the next season. When a semi showed up, I thought, ‘Wow, a lot of people in the area must be ordering.’ But it was all for us. How many plants was it?”
“7,500,” Mike replies.
“And they had to be planted within seven days,” Pauline continues. “It was February, and raining. The dogs were up to their necks in the mud.”
“That’s over 1,000 a day!”
“Mike tried to make raised beds for them, but with all the mud, it was ineffective. By the end, we didn’t care. I just dropped them on the ground and hoped for the best, mostly because I couldn’t bend over anymore.” Pauline pauses, reliving the misery.
“We didn’t think to put in the stakes or irrigation lines, which turned out to be a mistake because when the ground dries, it turns into concrete. We learned that the hard way,” laughs Mike.
Even though at that moment, Mike and Pauline may have doubted their choice to farm, they took it in stride. Their field filled with raspberries and blackberries by the following spring, soon growing large enough to support their u-pick operation and fill thousands of jars of jam. And, by the way, their jams are incredible, fresh, bright, and packed with flavor. Comparing them to the stuff at the grocery store’s an insult, similar to calling a Maserati a ‘nice family car.’
And Edenberry’s vinegars are second to none. Their raspberry vinegar’s reminiscent of Chambord. Here’s a tip: put a small float of it on a margarita for spectacular flavor.
Of course, all of that wonderfulness comes with a massive amount of work. Mike and Pauline estimate to have done 97% of the labor to transform the old walnut orchard into a berry paradise. “We sell around five thousand jars a year of jam,” Pauline says, “And maybe five hundred of our vinegar.” She stands up. “Why don’t we go take a look at the farm? Then I can show you everything.”
We walk the grounds, picking the season’s last raspberries from the vines. “You see how they crumble?” Mike adds. That’s from a lack of nitrogen because it’s fall.” He holds a few in his hand, watching them fall apart. “The flavor’s there, but it’s hard to sell them at the market because customers want pretty berries. Here, have a few.” They’re tart and sweet, full of fall flavor. Sure enough, the berries don’t care; it’s the end of the season, and each one bursts with flavor.
“Once the leaves fall, we’ll bring in the sheep to help clean things up a bit and fertilize, Pauline, explains. “They are great workers and pets, but will eat anything green.” She smiles and makes her way towards the massive greenhouse.
“So this is new,” she says as we make our way inside. “Mike and I put this up ourselves, believe it or not.”
“Yeah, and we’re still married!” Mike laughs.
“It was a lot of work,” Pauline smiles. Inside, the temperature rises; rows of tomato bushes have merged into one rather large, thriving ecosystem. Off to the side, another clump of zucchini, squash, and other vegetables happily grow, completely ignorant it’s fall outside. “There’s all kinds of possibilities in here,” Pauline imagines out loud. “It will be fun to expand all we can offer at the farm.” She pulls a few zucchini hidden under a patch of leaves. Meanwhile, Mike’s sorting through the tomatoes. All get piled in our arms.
All too soon, we make our way back to the car, arms overflowing with vegetables. Franklin leads the way to the gate, followed by their other dog Isla. The cool morning air has warmed by now, and the dew’s evaporating into the crystalline Lake County sky. Mike and Pauline’s daughter Annika pops out of the chicken coop, getting the morning’s eggs. All’s well and peaceful at Edenberry Farm.
The best way to experience Edenberry Farm is to swing by to pick some of their organic berries yourself. They’ve got a farm stand on-site full of jams and vinegar as well. If picking berries isn’t your thing, you’ll find them at the Farmers’ Markets in Lakeport, Finley, or Healdsburg.
3036 Stone Dr, Lakeport, CA 95453