Hansel Kern is a North Fork farmer and stone mason who learned masonry and homesteading from his father, Ken Kern, author of “The Owner Built Home” and many other books that helped advance the back-to-the-land movement in the 60’s. He retired from stone masonry in 1999 to follow his passion for growing food on the land, and has been farming with his daughter Becky and son Aaron since then. The Kern Family Farm is on an 80 acre parcel in the middle of the Sierra National Forest. It’s a diverse farm that includes greenhouses full of salad greens and spinach, several acres of seasonal vegetables, fruit trees and berries, a barnyard with goats and chickens and most recently, moveable goat pastures, all powered by solar and hydro since the farm is off the grid. The farm is now certified organic, and in 2016, the Kerns opened a retail market in North Fork called the Gnarly Carrot, a “local, natural, seasonally changing market” that sells both products from the Kern Family Farm and those of other small local farmers and artisan food makers. Hansel is on the board of the Ecological Farming Association and he and his family help organize the annual Organic Stone Fruit Jubilee to help consumers looking for healthy local fruit connect with local organic stone fruit growers. He has also run the school garden at the North Fork Elementary School for the past 18 years, and in 2013 was voted North Fork Citizen of the Year for his work in the school garden.
Aaron Kern, 26 years old, was born and raised in North Fork on a homestead his dad Hansel Kern and grandfather Ken Kern built in the middle of the Sierra National Forest. He helped his family build it into a working organic farm and since graduating from high school, has worked on it full time helping to clear brush, cut wood, build fences, bale hay, plant fields and take care of livestock. When he was in 2nd grade his teacher, Mr. York, asked Aaron’s dad to help start a school garden which the Kern family has helped to run since 1999. When the war in Iraq started in 2003, Aaron and his sister got in trouble for protesting it on the school campus. He intends to carry on the family farm. Aaron has been instrumental in studying and implementing permaculture and no-till farming practices both on the farm and on the school garden.
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