Farming Rural 02

Carl Rosato

November 24, 2019


Carl Rosato grew up in Phoenix, Arizona with 11 other siblings. Even as a child Carl was independent and always striking
out on his own. At 15, he took a road trip with is mom and younger brother to the northwest and visited Tolstoy,
an intentional community near Spokane, Washington focused on farming and simple living. Carl left high school
and joined Tolstoy later in his 15th year. To support himself, Carl picked apples, peaches, and other tree fruit in
Washington state orchards near Lake Chelan every season for 5 years. Carl paid attention to every orchard
detail, including which were the best fruit varieties. He worked hard and was known as the fastest and best fruit
picker. Carl moved to another back-to-the-land farming intentional community at Wolfe Creek, Oregon and then
onto a start-up farm in Washington where he hoped to work his way into cooperative ownership. When that did
not work he began to save money for his own farm, picking fruit, planting trees, and grafting.
Carl met his first wife Rael Reif in 1979. They picked apples in Wenatchee, Washington and planted trees for the
Hoedads in Washington, where we they experienced Mt. Saint Helen’s erupting while they were planting. Carl
and Rael bought 10 acres of land in the Sierra foothills near Oroville, California in 1980. It was hilly, oak and pine
covered land with poor soil. Carl began building the soil with compost and cover crops. They planted 1,000
peach trees and 40 mandarin oranges. Carl chose many of the peach and nectarine varieties that had been his
favorites while picking fruit in Washington. Carl built a small greenhouse and a one-room home, complete with
outhouse, outdoor shower, and solar hot water.
Carl worked for 4 years at a local lumber mill and Rael worked for many years as a special needs teacher. While
the fruit trees matured, they grew flowers and sold them on street corners for the 5 major "flower holidays ".
Woodleaf Farm was certified organic in 1982 and was the ninth farm in California to be certified by California
Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF). Carl became very involved with CCOF, as a certifier for other organic farms. He
attended the very first EcoFarm conference in 1981. He read everything he could get his hands on about organic
soil management and farming and started his enormous book collection. Carl and Rael divorced in 1991.
Carl focused on his farm, diversified, and expanded while purchasing another 16 acres and planting another
2000 fruit trees, adding to the peaches, nectarines, and mandarins with apples, pears, plums, pluots, Asian
pears, persimmons, and baby kiwi. He also raised vegetables, including his well-known trellis cucumbers, and
shitake mushrooms. Carl became known for his ecological farm methods and great tasting fruit. He developed a
strong farmer’s market clientele selling at 6 farmer’s markets per week in the Bay area and one weekly market
in Chico, California. Carl’s peaches were renowned for flavor and beauty all over northern California.
Carl was always trying to improve organic farming techniques and understand biological systems with on-farm
experiments. In 1992, Carl received the first Organic Farming Research Foundation farmer research grant to
study organic methods for peach brown rot management. Carl’s 3 years of experiments helped him to develop
his famous “mineral-mix bloom spray” to manage brown rot. Carl used the bloom spray successfully for more
than 20 years.
Carl focused on organic soil management and studied with several leaders in soil mineral balancing. He became
an organic soil management consultant, working with farmers to balance soil minerals and design/maintain
organic orchards. Carl was devoted to education and service. From 2004-2010, Carl helped to direct, design and
run the CCOF Foundation grant-funded Going Organic Project. In 1994 – 2011, Carl taught four organic farming
courses at Butte Community College, California. Carl was also the president of the North Valley California
chapter of CCOF and served as a CCOF state board member (2005-2012) and a Community Alliance with Family
Farmers board member (2000-2005). Carl was a volunteer every year at Full Belly Farm’s Hoes Down festival
where he also presented workshops.

Carl traveled extensively in central and South America and eventually bought land in Ecuador to save
endangered primary native tropical forest. On the un-forested part of his land in Ecuador, Carl planted cacao
trees and learned to make chocolate, that friends and family say was very bitter. He sold the land in Ecuador
when he found that spending winters away from his Woodleaf Farm in California got in the way of managing his
farm and maintaining the kind of quality Carl insisted upon.

Carl met his second wife, Gina Colombatto at his Marin farmer’s market in 2002 and helped to raise his step-
daughter Lena DGiulia who was 12 and loved coming to the farm and helping at Carl’s farmer’s markets. Carl and

Gina traveled in Europe and explored the east coast of the US. But Carl’s farm always came first and he and Gina
divorced in 2008 when Carl lost his entire fruit crop to a spring frost and put all his energy into growing
vegetables for the valuable farmers markets he had spent so many years building. Carl turned out to be as good
a vegetable grower as he was a fruit grower.
Carl focused on making his Woodleaf Farm ever more sustainable and tied to ecological processes. Carl
developed an ecological approach to soil and pest management with reduced tillage and living mulches to help
cycle nutrients and provide habitat for beneficial insects. He also devolved a gravity flow irrigation system, 100%
solar power for the farm, low energy use buildings, and had cats for gopher control.
Carl met his last wife at the 2011 EcoFarm conference. Helen Atthowe came to Carl’s presentation and got his
attention during a discussion of cover crops and living mulches. Carl attended Helen’s presentation the next day
and excitedly told her that she managed her Montana farm using the same ecological methods and philosophy
he used. Carl visited Helen in Montana for backpacking trips and Helen visited Carl in California and ran one of
Carl’s farmer’s markets and joined him for a desert camping/hiking trip.
In February 2012, Carl was recognized with a Steward of Sustainable Agriculture Award, at the 32nd Ecofarm
Conference. Later that year Helen moved to California and began to farm with Carl. Carl and Helen also
continued to do on-farm research, including a Western Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education grant
2013-2015 to study Woodleaf’s Farm’s Disease and Insect Suppression and Soil Management System, and a
2013 grant from The Fruit Guys to study Woodleaf’s Insect Suppression Strategies. Carl and Helen did
presentations and workshops together and published the results of their research at Carl and Helen also created educational videos presented at:
After four bountiful and lucrative years farming in California, Carl and Helen had enough saved to “semi-retire”.
In December 2015, they bought and moved to 211 acres in eastern Oregon at the base of the Wallowa
Mountains with 64 irrigated acres along nearly a mile of Eagle Creek. They built deer fence, planted a 400 acre
orchard with 85 varieties of fruit, including crosses they had made from Woodleaf, California peaches. They built
a greenhouse and a high tunnel for vegetable production and experimented with further reducing tillage in their
vegetable fields. Carl built sheds and the shop he had always dreamed of. Helen and Carl continued to travel for
presentations and workshops and for camping, backpacking, and snorkeling adventures. They especially enjoyed
exploring the Eagle Cap wilderness just up the road from their farm.
Carl redid his Woodleaf Farm website to include all the new ideas and farming methods he and Helen were
experimenting with at Woodleaf Farm, Oregon. Carl never stopped learning, changing his ideas, being curious,
and seeing with the eyes of wonder and awe. He had a life of passion and purpose and service and has been
well-loved by family, friends, students, and all the people he touched with his work. Donations in Carl’s name
can be sent to CCOF foundation, the Wild Farm Alliance, or Organic Farming Research foundation

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