The Story of Altamont Farms

My family lives a suburban lifestyle in the San Francisco Bay Area. Like a lot of people working in the tech industry, I crave something tangible. Over the years I have enjoyed cooking and gardening, but it was only later in life that the continuum of the two activities became clear.

I enjoy gardening and the concept of farm-to-table, but honestly, I can be pretty happy with In-n-Out for lunch. I love good food but haven’t elevated it to a social cause, and when it comes to my family we do focus on healthy eating through good choices. I teach my children to pay attention to what is in the food they eat, know where food comes from, and respect what nature gives us by not wasting it.

Cooking is a passion and the ability to express creativity through food is one of my few creative abilities; I can’t draw you a portrait, write a poem, do pottery, sculpture, or anything else artistic… but I can cook, prolifically. I’m also insanely curious, really good at research, and doggedly determined. If something catches my interest, I can figure out how to do it and perfect it over multiple attempts.

I spent a year watching YouTube videos, debating with friends, and reading old cookbooks to learn how to make a classic French omelet. That is how determined I can be.

A rich garden is a source of pride for me and I do it in a limited amount of space. I organize and stagger my garden layout to take advantage of 3 dimensional space, use the sunlight patterns to my advantage, and am a relentless composter and soil afficianado. I take pH measurements of my soil, study insects beneficial and pests, and read obscure journals about seeds.

If you are an avid gardener you know the role that honey bees play in agriculture. Obviously I needed honey bees, so one night on Craigslist I saw an ad for honey bees, complete with a hive. My first attempt at honey bee management failed but not one to give up, I’m making another go of honey bees, with the help of a master beekeeper. Beekeepers stick together, I learned.

When you cook as much as I do you use a lot of eggs, and when you actively garden and associate with other gardeners you run into people with backyard chicken flocks. Productive chickens will lay 1 egg per day, up to 6 days a week. People with backyard chickens are generous with the surplus eggs and people who cook love backyard chicken eggs. Raised properly on a diet of vegetables and feed, these eggs have glorious orange yolks teeming with lecithin, the stuff that makes eggs so magical.

I had to have chickens. We have 2 barred rock laying hens, but I am in the process of expanding my coop and run and will add 2 more hens, not because I need more eggs but because I just like having the chickens.

Our suburban house on the Peninsula is blessed with a fabulous climate and we make the most of it with 350+ square feet of raised beds, one honey bee hive, and two chickens. In my modest kitchen I can turn out multi-course dinners for up to 12 people, and in my outdoor kitchen I can entertain and cook for up to 20. On the average day I will prepare breakfast for my children, lunch for my wife and myself (we both work from home), and dinner for the family. It’s not exotic cooking but I take advantage of sophisticated equipment like my sous vide machine and strive for precision and variety.

Altamont Farms is not a farm in the traditional sense, it is shaped by the reality of my surroundings and aspirations. There are a lot of things going on here, some big and others small, and it is through this website that I wish to share it with you.