For new farmers Shalie and Jeremy Jonkers, creating a symbiotic community with other farmers doing the same has helped them do more with their bucolic, topsoil-rich flat land at the near end of the Dry Creek Valley, on Kinley Lane. Their farm, Noble Goat Farm, came into being during the pandemic.
Building community, person-to-person and organization-to-organization, their nine-acre plot is a dream in the making.
Four of those acres are invested in farmland. Part of the original pomegranate orchard still stands, and budding farmers harvested two tonnes of ruby-red pomegranates for Farm to Pantry last season from 400 trees. Additionally, they planted specifically to donate produce to the organization.
They continue to plant and harvest for Farm to Pantry and grow their farm. The couple have two children, Hadley, 4, and Hollyn, 10 months. They also have a farm dog, Wyatt. Plus four hens named Ruth and Violet, after Jeremy’s grandmothers, and Pearl and Wanda, after Shalie’s grandmothers. They will adopt little goats, named after their grandfathers, as soon as their goat pen is complete.
Jeremy is a busy man and he doesn’t sit around much. He answers a question, then he goes to pull the weeds and collect them for the hens. As he throws the herbs into the chicken coop, the four chickens run for a treat, delighted to have more fresh food.
“It feels like coming home”
Both Jonkers grew up in farming communities, in small towns in Kansas and Ohio where soybeans and corn were abundant.
They came to Healdsburg to stay in May 2020. They had been looking for the right property for a long time, they said. They had discussed whether to continue renting in the Bay Area, specifically Emerald Hills on the peninsula, or buying since 2015.
They visited what they thought was the “quaint” town of Healdsburg and immediately fell in love with the area.
“We mean scenic in the best way,” Jeremy said. “The place, the farmers, it’s a farming community.”
The “noble” in the name of the farm comes from Jonkers, who is Dutch, and it specifically means a young nobleman. Shalie’s last name is Gaskill, which means goat farmer, so they mixed the two names and created Noble Goat Farm.
“It’s like coming home,” Shalie said. “We are creating what we grew up with in a more intentional way with more diversity.”
The Jonkers both work in technology and were looking for more balance in their lives. She works at Google Maps and he at Paypal, until recently. Now they have changed the way they spend their time to still include work, but also farming, hunting, fishing, golfing and other outdoor activities.
“We knew our Emerald Hills neighbors, but we weren’t involved in the community,” Jeremy said. Now they grow exclusively for Farm to Pantry, although they plan to start a farm that will stand on its own.
The farm is now their permanent home.
Farmers lend a hand to other farmers
They were traveling in early 2020 when the first cases of COVID-19 hit. While they didn’t know exactly what the disease was, they were told to self-isolate, so they came to Healdsburg and they didn’t look back. She now works remotely and he set up his own investment fund, Infinity Ventures, in April 2021.
The Jonkers provide fresh produce especially for Farm to Pantry. Farm to Pantry is now harvesting some 400 properties in the county with 500 volunteers helping to glean the produce, according to Duskie Estes, the organization’s executive director.
One of the ways farmers become more involved is by mentoring new farmers.
When Bruce Mentzer and his husband Anthony Solar started the nonprofit Farm to Fight Hunger four years ago, it was Healdsburg’s first farm dedicated solely to production for Farm to Pantry. They were originally mentored and advised by Melita Love, who founded Farm to Pantry in 2008. When Mentzer and Solar learned of Noble Goat’s plan to do the same, they offered suggestions and even vegetables for the plantation.
“We’re located in the beauty of it all (the area around Healdsburg),” Mentzer said. “It’s incredibly magical.”
On April 16, Noble Goat Farm will also be a regular at the Healdsburg Farmer’s Market. The Jonkers will begin selling microgreens, peas, beets, other greens, radishes, carrots and turnips in the spring.
Keep an eye out for their stunning new truck. Shalie’s dad helped the couple buy a 1946 Chevy Dually, paid to fix it, and he built wooden sides for it. The truck will be used on the farm and will serve as an emblem when parked at the market.