Fly Girl Farm: Female Farmers Cultivating Community from the Ground Up
Fly Girl Farm in Pescadero is home to a small but growing group of female farmers that is looking to support healthier communities in the Bay Area. I spent the day with Airielle Love, Fly Girl’s fearless leader and head farmer, as well as the rest of her team, to learn more about the women working to feed the North Bay with their passion for locally-grown produce.
The Fly Girl Farm team was already fast at work when I arrived at their property, breaking up soil clods and pulling dried bulbs from the ground to replant later in the season. Not one to stand around, I quickly joined in; impressed by the fiendish grace with which each of them handled a shovel. I was more than excited to join an all-female farming team for the day, and was eager to learn about each of their diverse backgrounds. Airielle is originally from Nova Scotia, and grew up in a homestead environment, deeply entrenched in her love for the natural world. Her desire to start farming in California can be attributed to that upbringing. Jaime is from Houston, and is Fly Girl’s newest team member. Her degree in microbiology comes in handy when the group has questions pertaining to soil health and microorganisms. Bernarda, whose sense of humor and dancing skeleton earrings sent me into laughing fits the entire day, is from Guanajuato and has spent her whole life working in agriculture. She carried a five-gallon bucket of tomatoes on her head like it was a bath towel. Kaeleigh traveled from Indiana to learn how to farm, and was as an intern with Fly Girl Farm before becoming Airielle’s business partner.
Now in its seventh year of operation, Fly Girl Farm has garnered greater attention and mounting success thanks to Airielle’s passion and perseverance. The farm has gone from growing a few choice items to featuring everything from peppers, tomatoes, leafy greens, potatoes, and cucumbers. They even grow several varieties of strawberries, which do quite well thanks to the advantageous coastal climate. While their produce speaks for itself, Fly Girl Farm might be best known for their vibrant flowers and sumptuous floral displays at farmers’ markets – Airielle’s specialty. “I really try to emphasize and maintain a particular aesthetic at markets, in addition to providing high-quality and diverse products,” she said. It’s easy to see where her artistic ability shines through in her work, bringing a notable charm to Fly Girl’s tables at the farmers’ market, and the farm itself.
The Pescadero community has also proved itself to be an invaluable contributor to Fly Girl Farm’s success. The town’s resident base is one that fervently supports local food and the people who grow it, giving small farms like Airielle’s a chance to flourish in local markets and storefronts. “To have community members believe in us and the product we bring to the markets keeps the motivation going and the hard work worth it,” shared Kaeleigh. Other farmers have also put down roots in the area, and often come together to pool resources, ideas, and general information, making the environment a collaborative, and not competitive one. The Fly Girl Farm team benefits greatly from being involved in these collective efforts, leasing land from a farm just down the road in order to grow their flowers.
Following an afternoon of harvesting tomatoes and cucumbers, I was treated to a homemade meal in their outdoor kitchen, which consisted of Fly Girl Farm peppers, tomatoes, greens, and grass-fed lamb from a nearby ranch. In between bites of the glorious sauté, I recorded final thoughts from their team to wrap up my visit. Airielle, Kaeleigh, Jaime, and Bernarda grinned widely as I exclaimed at their full work days. They currently lease four separate plots of land, and also attend four farmers’ markets a week, no small feat for a team that consists of only four people. Despite the hectic schedule, Airielle is confident in moving forward with new goals for the farm. Now that they have sufficient harvests and an abundance of crops, the team hopes to expand to additional farmers’ markets in the Bay Area. They also want to utilize animal grazing practices alongside rotating crops, and experiment with low-till and no-till farming techniques.
I was quickly captivated by the excitement in their voices as they spoke about the future. While Airielle, Kaeleigh, Jaime, and Bernarda’s backgrounds are vastly different, their comradery is unmatched and a true testament to the collective power of motivated individuals. When I asked Airielle what it meant to be a Fly Girl, she was quick to point out that their success all starts with this teamwork and communication. “This is a group of empowered, self-sufficient women. And being here, it’s more of a feeling than anything else. We are growing together, everybody is here to learn, and that’s what living is to me. This little community is thriving on this property.”
You can catch Fly Girl Farm at the College of San Mateo Farmers’ Market on Saturdays, and at additional farmers’ markets in the Bay Area.
Remember, dirt first!