North American Organics from Redwood Valley
Shannon Johnson, a girl from Redwood Valley, had been a waitress at Club Calpella for some time, serving regulars like Friday regular Dave Lowe, the current co-owner of North American Organics on Held Road.
“It was about 15 years ago and he asked me if I wanted to drive the delivery dump truck for them,” Shannon says. “Absolutely,” I say. “
The next time she served it, she had to admit that she really wasn’t very good at reversing or driving a truck for that matter.
He told her to come down and he and his wife, Kathy, would put her to work in the office. She learned the ropes and gradually took over from the Lowes’ niece.
Tired of serving as a waitress, finished, she called Kathy to ask if she could find a full time job with them.
“Absolutely,” she said. When can you start? I said, two weeks.
She’s worked hard to learn the ins and outs, mentoring with Dave and Kathy, and two years ago she and her husband, Scott, bought North American Organics from Lowes.
They make a variety of mixes, some with a fair Mendocino story.
Scott’s dad, Jimmy Johnson, who was responsible for the garden and landscaping project at Fetzer in the ’80s, came to the Lowes with a list of ingredients for them to make a Garden Mix, which became their house mix – an all-purpose mix, ideal for flowers and vegetables, mushroom compost, rice husks, sawdust, and a small amount of lava sand, used directly in the soil or in planters , large lawns.
“If you do this mix, we’ll buy 40 cubic meters from you every year,” he told them.
They did and he did.
Around the same time, Richie Fetzer, one of organic farming’s first acolytes, was inserting chicken and cow manure and diatomaceous earth into the soil before planting, coming up with the idea of their Farmer’s Mix used to break up large chunks of soil that have not been planted for some time but are not recommended for general gardening.
“Small backyard grape producers come for this mixture. “
Then Jimmy came up with another mix idea – 50/50 – which is half sieve soil and half Farmers mix used for similar purposes to Farmer’s Mix.
“We can sell 500 to 1,000 yards a year; landscapers use it for local work. Much of it was used for reconstruction when they removed all the dirt from the Redwood Valley fires; we deliver free of charge to those affected by the fire.
“It can be turned into mounds; there’s so much dirt in it that it stays where you put it. You can put grass seed in it.
They also donate free land and provide free delivery to schools, veterans organizations and the senior center and provide financial support to various groups.
“We just got a call from the Hopland Charter School to buy us some land, but we’re giving it to them for free. “
Garden Mix, 50/50, Farmer’s Mix, SpyRock Blend, Rubens Mix, and the Angry Hippie (must call ahead for this one) make up their line of North American Organics originals.
Other products available in cubic yards include the perfect potting mix from their Heritage Organics line; Happy Hippie, Native Blend and Cascade Worm Castings from their California Soils range; and Victory Mix / Sea Blend, Dutchman Coco-Coir and Wood Compost from their Sanctuary Soils range.
They get their supplies from everywhere: organic chicken and cow manure is trucked to Petaluma; mushroom compost from Monterey Mushrooms; lava sand from Clearlake Lava; rice husks from Victory Ag in Eltopia, WA .; four lighter blends, organic coconut and certified organic worm casts from Pacific Landscape Supply in Vernalis; and sawdust and wood compost from local suppliers.
“We mix everything here and instead of buying it by the bag, it’s more economical and environmentally friendly – by removing all the plastic – when you buy our mixes here by the cubic meter,” Scott explains.
This morning Salvador Meza, who worked alongside the Lowes for more than two and a half decades making the mixes, operates their large wind rowing machine that runs along long, neat rows, about two and a half feet high. , created with layers of mushroom compost, rice husks, lava sand and sawdust.
The machine has a large plowing apparatus that goes up and over the row, raising a lot of dust, as it combines and aerates the materials, reducing odors and creating a warm brown row of new, clean and fresh Garden Mix, overflowing with energy and looks almost-good-enough to eat.
On the way to watch Meza work, we pass large berries – one filled with Victory Mix / Sea Blend, ideal for hoop houses and flower pots; one with coconut fiber, crushed coconut shells; one with chicken manure; one with lava sand and a very large bay filled with Garden Mix.
After the rows of newly mixed Garden Mix is the compost barn where they store the SpyRock Mix, their hottest and densest combo of chicken manure, cow manure, worms, mushroom compost, hulls of rice and granite dust… use with caution.
In other areas of the barn are the new Garden Mix where they load the customers, the old Garden Mix from last year and the mushroom compost.
“Every year when we run out of old garden mix from the previous year, we take the old mushroom compost and make a new old garden mix. “
Real relationships with people, caring for them is Shannon’s job.
“I am who I am with the Pope, I am who I am with you. I love taking care of people, interacting with them and with my community, being part of something that makes people feel good. We take customer service to another level.
“I appreciate it when I feel that level of concern myself as a customer; no matter the price, if you treat me well, i want to come back.
“We only use the best materials and we create with consistency. Love our product: Manure has been used for centuries by farmers to get high yields from their products. I believe it; I use it.”