First Rain Farm is located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, just outside of Nevada City, California. At 2500’ elevation, the farm is a mixture of coniferous and deciduous tree species, which surround our fields and dominate the landscape. Trees love growing here, and so do we! We are lucky to have Brush Creek meander through our farm, providing moisture for riparian plant species and habitat for the abundant wildlife. Brush Creek is a tributary of the South Yuba River which is just down the road and is our favorite place to swim and seek reprieve from the heat of summer.
At First Rain Farm, we strive to steward all the land on the farm, in all its diversity. We operate a system of agriculture that produces nourishing food for our community by integrating the use of livestock with the land and creating fertility through the animals to produce a rich compost which in turn nourishes our crops. We see it as our responsibility as stewards of this place to forever be listening to the needs of this land and adapting our system to better serve those needs.
Our farm is certified organic by California Certified Organic Farmers. We pride ourselves on our care for the soil, and our on-farm production of 90% of our fertility needs through the use of animals and the generation of compost. We have been operating using no-till practices since 2017 and continue to discover ways in which to increase yields, quality, and the diversity of products we offer while improving soil fertility, its ability to retain moisture, and the structure of the soil.
Meet the Team
Tim Van Wagner is a Nevada County native. Having grown up with regular access to the forested BLM lands of Banner Mountain and spending countless hours discovering the freedom found there, Tim developed a deep sense of love and understanding for the mixed coniferous forest lands of Nevada County from a young age. In 2007 Tim graduated from Pitzer College with a BA in “Environment, Society and Design”, a self-designed major, and a minor in Art. Through his experiences in college, and especially a four month study abroad experience in Tanzania, Tim developed a strong conviction in the importance, and indeed the necessity, of humans reconnecting with nature. For Tim, the most obvious and meaningful way to do this was through our food system.
Upon returning to Nevada County in 2007, Tim partnered with Debora and Leo Chapman of Bluebird Farm at the Jacobson Dude Ranch where he completed his first full season of farming. In 2008 he helped with the process of creating the Nevada CIty Farmer’s Market by serving as a founding board member with a team of passionate community members. In 2009 Tim co-founded Living Lands Agrarian Network, a 501c3 non-profit farming organization dedicated to training farmers and building a local food system and a network of farms surrounding Nevada City. In 2012 Tim launched his own farm, First Rain Farm, and was able to consolidate his farming on one larger parcel. The name First Rain Farm speaks to this place and how after a long, dry summer these lands are finally quenched by the first rain of the season which truly marks a shift in the season and a feeling of relief to everything and everyone.
Tim is a father to his son Teague, who brings him endless joy and hope for the future and he is a husband to Kat, the woman of his dreams whose arrival has brought his life to a whole new level. Tim cares deeply for this place we call home and can think of no other place he’d rather live.
Kathleen(aka Kat) Van Wagner is originally from the beautiful East coast state of Maine. Having developed a love of food and farming during her twenties, she then made her transition to the West coast in the Fall of 2013 and to Nevada County in the Fall of 2014. Kat joined the First Rain Farm family in the Fall of 2017 after quickly falling for her now husband Tim. Kat and Tim were married on the farm in September of 2019. Kat has a passion for herbalism, growing food, hiking, animal husbandry, cooking and loves living and creating community in the quaint town of Nevada City. Kat's main job on the farm is managing the milking herd as well as outreach and marketing and with the arrival of their daughter Rose Cordelia in October of 2021, most days she is a full-time mom!
Chris Shehab was born and raised in the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 2008 Chris' farming experience began on a mid-scale organic vegetable farm in Willow Creek, California. Over the course of his meandering farming journey, Chris has worked on a number of organic farms as well as briefly running his own farming business.
Chris met Tim Van Wagner in 2011 through the Living Lands Agrarian Network, and was immediately drawn to his vision of responsible land management. He has worked on and off at First Rain Farm from its inception in 2012, and is very happy to hold his current position on this beautiful land, which is just a short walk from his own home. This is work that Chris finds truly meaningful and necessary, as well as immensely pleasurable.
Chris is the field manager for the farm managing daily tasks and the crew.
Sarah White Sarah was born in California, but grew up in Colorado where she developed a love for the outdoors and nature. During high school, she completely a year long foreign exchange to Brazil, where she learned Portuguese, fell in love with Brazilian food and culture and developed a love for traveling. She attended 2 years at the University of Colorado in Boulder where she studied Spanish and Portuguese language and culture. After spending the majority of her life in Colorado, she decided it was time to return to her California roots in 2015, and ended up in Nevada County doing various farm work and odd jobs, reigniting her love of spending time in nature and working with plants. She has always loved working with animals, as well as gardening as a hobby and now has decided to make farming her career by joining the First Rain Farm team. When she isn’t at the farm milking the goats and doing various field work, you can find her working in her garden, hiking and exploring at the Yuba, cooking, and making friends with animals.
Azalie Welsh is a fifth-generation Californian with a passionate interest in the relationship between the people and the land of her home state. From growing food to prescribed burning to tending animals to stewarding forests, Azalie is living out her lifelong love of revitalizing the land, continually learning how to support the health of interdependent human and non-human communities, and working with others to do the same. When she's not working or playing outdoors, you might find Azalie writing, reading, seeking out live music, or experimenting in the kitchen.