“Good healthy food is good for the earth and the people, it’s what makes you thrive.” Paul Kolling has been practicing this through organic farming for the past four decades. We recently interviewed Paul, the owner of Nana Mae’s Organics, to learn more about his journey and experiences along the way.
Paul grew up in San Francisco until attending UC Santa Barbara, but felt called back to The Bay Area and later transferred to UC Berkeley, where he graduated in 1975 with a degree in engineering and geoscience. Fresh out of college, he worked as an engineer for the US geological survey. In 1979, everything changed when Paul and his brother purchased the orchards that cultivate the over 25 heirloom varieties of apples and pears for which Nana Mae’s Organics is known.
Paul’s transition to organic farming starts with a story about raspberries. While taking agriculture classes in Washington state, Paul was taught the best way to remedy the growth of grass and weeds around raspberries near harvest time was to use weed killer. However, that would be the first and last time that he would ever use synthetic chemicals on his crops. Paul was quick to notice their negative impact on the raspberry vines, and ultimately knew the effects of those chemicals extended beyond the produce to harm humans as well. He’s been farming organically ever since, and has never looked back.
Currently, Paul’s main method is dry farming: farming without irrigation. This practice allows apple trees to become more resilient in the face of California’s ongoing drought, and apples to have more concentrated nutritional value, as there is less water content.
Paul’s favorite part of being an organic farmer is his ability to fulfill the love of being in nature that brings him peace. He specifically enjoys pruning, winter care for trees, and giving them the extra attention needed to grow healthily. “Beyond nature and pruning, [organic farming] is also something that is good for our local communities and the planet, as well as trying to be an example.” Paul says.
Throughout his 40 years of farming, Paul has worked closely with the institutional school food system, which has been extremely helpful, not only for his small business, but also for impacting younger generations. He emphasizes the importance of nourishing kids with organic food. Humanity has spent hundreds of years trying to make life better through the development of more efficient and innovative processes and products, yet the earth’s biodiversity is left to face the consequences of these processes, such as greenhouse gas emissions and more. In his eyes, we are straying away from natural processes that are beneficial to the health of the world — when it is good, healthy, organic food that is good for the earth and the people.
Nana Mae’s Organics was named after his grandmother, who can be seen photographed on the label of his products, as she always showed the family a very hands-on and natural way to put food on the table. Raised with these values, Paul continues to be a force when it comes to organic farming. He has positively impacted the health and well-being of customers of all ages through Nana Mae’s Organics, which will be felt for years to come. As he continues his journey, he continues to lead change, nourish communities, and inspire the next generation.