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Where Community Trumps Competition. A Conversation with @bellfarmcollective

Julia MarbleTucked into a little wedge of farmland between Petaluma and Rohnert Park, Flying Cloud Farm has long been a go-to event space for special events in Sonoma. Now, there’s a new and exciting addition to their suite of offerings. The Bell Farm Collective is a constantly shifting group of mostly-local makers and creators showing and selling their work. The offerings run from made-in-Sonoma clothing, to soy-wax candles (poured in Petaluma) to pillows and blankets to Sonoma-themed décor and gemstone ritual oils and and and… there’s a lot. It’s a treasure trove of lovingly hand-made local stuff. There’s a web store, of course, because it’s 2021, but the real draw is in the bricks-and-mortar shop, on the beautiful grounds of the founder’s family farm.

Julia Marble (née Bell) has had a big couple of years. She was married at Flying Cloud in 2017, and welcomed her first child in 2019. Then Covid hit, and like so many of us she was laid off in early 2020. Crucially, though, Julia decided to seize the opportunity and launch the Collective – an idea that had been percolating in her mind for a while. The turning point, she says, came when she silenced the part of her mind that was telling her that it wasn’t going to work and started looking for solutions instead of problems.

Julia wanted to explore and showcase the incredible talent of Sonoma’s community of artists and artisans, especially those who had no commercial outlet of their own, and the idea grew from there. Flying Cloud had, in the distant past, been an equestrian facility, and the gorgeous old stable was begging to be used. With events at Flying Cloud essentially frozen by the pandemic, Julia conscripted her (cheerfully willing) dad and they converted the barn into a shop that you really need to see.

Julia’s mindset is that community trumps competition, and she’s found that’s a widely-held view in Sonoma. She’d approach artisans and “they’d say all right, let’s just do it together.” She also says that quite a few people have started making and selling things during the pandemic. They’re all, in a sense, learning together, and “making amazing things that people haven’t seen before.”

Marble FamilyJulia is – like literally everyone else in the world – looking forward to the end of Covid. She has big plans for the Collective once that happens. “I’m dying to do ‘meet the maker’ events. Let customers talk directly to the person who made the products. They all have such amazing stories to share.” There are also plans for classes from painting to Pilates, and there’s an evolving – and growing – group of makers to showcase.

The Bell Farm Collective is a new spin on an old idea. A place-based artisanal market, brought forward into the 21st Century. It’s wonderful and we love it. We think that you will too.

Check out Bell Farm Collective’s Instagram @bellfarmcollective & website for more details.

Julia’s Picks

Sonoma Top 3
  1. Restaurant: Risibisi “We just love this place whenever we have a date night”
  2. Wine: Ferrari – Carano, Fume Blanc
  3. Activity: Picnic Potential, “We’ve had two picnics with them, and we’re doing another one for my husband’s birthday (along with Austin’s Ice Cream Truck).”

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