Steve Chiaramonte

Send Request
Fiddletown, Usa
Minimum Stay:


Organic Gardening meets Visual Arts in the Wine Country

This is the Deal

We are presently considering to add a "permanent" live-in position at Safan for a responsible individual or couple who possess skills required to maintain the ranch. This is apart from the regular transient WWOOFers who are also welcome to apply, as always.

Safan Ranch is 7 miles east of Highway 49 in Amador County near the town of Plymouth, just outside the greater Sacramento metropolitan area, 2+ hours from San Francisco. This area is the historic home to the California Gold Rush of 1849 and more recently, to a burgeoning viticulture and wine-making economy. Amador is a rural county where recent decades have witnessed the cattle ranches and walnut orchards fall away to make room for boutique wineries and smaller farms.

We maintain 56 beautiful wooded rolling acres, including several organic gardens that we farm using permaculture methods. For 2010, we have utilized just a single of those gardens, having offered the remaining garden to a local permaculture group and to full-season WWOOFers who might like to invest their own hand at a market garden. We also keep goats, sheep, fowl, dogs and cats. Most of the land is rustic woodland at about 2000 feet of elevation where we encourage selva pasture and maintain a philosophy of low-impact use. We have hives for pollination and honey production, we forage for wild mushrooms and we harvest a bit of firewood, all of it sustainably. We know wine at Safan and we are lucky to be here in the wine-country (Fiddletown-AVA) of the Sierra Foothills where we make our own wine each fall, requiring ongoing attention of course throughout the year. We practice only limited viticulture at present, this year we sold our larger offsite vineyard and have now another offsite demonstration vineyard of about 100 vines. We hope to plant both an onsite vineyard and an exotic fruits orchard in the future. Presently we make wine in October of grapes purchased from neighboring vineyards. Safan Ranch is a member of the Amador Winemakers Association and thereby has routine access to the full complement of winemaking equipment and technology. We also grow hops and have successfully made beer in the past with another batch brewing in our minds very soon.

We accommodate WWOOFers year-round with a two-week minimum, but prefer to host longer-term interns for a stay of 2 months or more. Farming in California is a year-round endeavor and learning the scope of all that we do requires a considerable stay at Safan. Seasons run together here and many annual tasks are concentrated into periods of just several weeks. Short-term visitors might learn a few tasks exceedingly well but will enjoy less diversity than those who commit themselves longer. Many of our 60+ WWOOFers to date have remained with us 4-5 months and more.

Private, rustic lodging is provided in individual travel trailers grouped about the property. There is no plumbing in the trailers although power and heat are available with the purchase of a battery or propane if the need arises; a need that has seldom arisen. Major facilities are available in the main house, including group meals, toilet, shower, and so on. There is an outdoor shower house and water near the trailer campsites. Our group meals are often extraordinary and have earned a bit of a following amongst past WWOOFers. The accommodations too, have generally been rated highly. The social situation changes constantly and while secondary amongst our goals, it is usually quite good.

We are rooted deeply in the ideas of permaculture and sustainable living. We generate little waste, reuse and recycle most everything and regularly undertake building projects using straw bales, earthbags and so on. We eschew packaged or prepared foods generally in keeping with a healthy attitude and lifestyle. We are guilty perhaps of being a bit zealous in this regard, but we feel that these ideals are quite important and choose to share Safan with those who believe as we do.

We are on the grid but use a solar-powered well for most of our water needs. We are most grateful that the solar-powered pump was installed with the assistance of one of our stellar past WWOOFers who returned for a second season. As were the walls of our power-independant earth-bag supported wine cellar. Building projects on the docket still include a wood-fired sauna built of earthbags, a composting toilet and a wood-fired brick pizza oven that is underway at this moment.

Safan is home to The ArtRanch as well and provides residencies to qualified artists who live and work along side our WWOOFers. We have found a large number of our WWOOFers in the past have doubled as artists, and we encourage a blending of the two. We maintain a studio and gallery for artists of nearly every genre.

We are a small producer but there are many different things going on and opportunities to learn and experience many aspects of rural life. We are also well connected to the University of California Ag-Extension system (UC Davis) and WWOOFers are encouraged to attend the free classes offered nearby. We also enjoy working with several other CSA-participating WWOOF-farms locally to share and trade WWOOFers as a matter of expanding everyone's experience. This, of course, subject to the agreement of all who are involved. Safan is also active in several nearby convivia of Slow-Food USA, offering yet further opportunities to those WWOOFers who wish to become involved.

We ask WWOOFers to be prepared to work 30 hours weekly, some of that work is great fun and offers a lot of learning, some of it simply gets the weeds pulled! In the garden we look for help with irrigation, weeding, mulching, planting, organizing and harvesting. Other projects include apiary, green building projects, woodland management, tree trimming, cutting firewood for the fall and building brush piles for burning in the autumn and spring. We keep Goats, Sheep, Bees and Fowl that require some tending as well as the ranch dogs and myriad other things. In addition, everyone pitches in to keep up our communal space and while meals are centralized, we often call for assistance int he kitchen from WWOOFers who are interested to hone their culinary skills.

Longer-term visitors definitely are among our happiest in that they have the opportunity to learn more and participate in a broader range of tasks over the season. We take a great deal of pride in the investment we make to teach and train those who visit Safan and who truly wish to learn the art and practice of permaculture. We run a tight ship here and we look for all participants to work responsibly toward our common goal of self-sufficiency; this is a good stop for those who really expect to operate a small farm one day and not-so-good for those seeking a vacation or a brief respite along their tour of California. Our operation here is managed carefully and intensely in order to feed the greatest number of WWOOFers and artists we are able, all while consuming the least of our Earth's resources. Most of our efforts are pretty well dialed-in due to years of practice, but we always find there is something new to learn as well.

From Sacramento, bus service is available to Plymouth just 10K away, there is fairly easy public transportation from the town of Plymouth to other locales. We speak English plus limited Indonesian and Spanish.

Sorry, we cannot host children or pets and as consummate omnivores, we are also unable to accommodate vegans; vegetarians are welcome however. We do not allow smoking and prohibit the use of hard drugs.

Please apply with detailed personal information including DOB, Drivers License or Passport #, emergency contacts, references, your resume or CV of your background, tell us of past WWOOF experiences and send along links to your MySpace/Facebook/Blog pages so that we can know more about you. And anything additional that would help us know you better... interests, goals, experience, skills, passions, etc. What is your timing like, when you would like to arrive, for how long do you wish to stay, and what type of transportation will you be using to get here are similarly things we need to know before we can extend our invitation to you. Please be sure as well to tell us of any food allergies/preferences and describe any medical conditions that might be of concern or otherwise impact your stay with us. Most importantly, we'd like to hear what it is you would like to learn from your stay here, and why you chose Safan Ranch from all the WWOOF hosts available.

You should be aware that we live in a rural area with poor cell phone coverage. Safan provides limited satellite-delivered WiFi for email and simple web-searches (online music, video and skype are not supported); cell-phone service and broadband WiFi are available in Plymouth about 7 miles away. If you come to Safan, please be prepared with a warm sleeping bag, a battery-run alarm clock (other than your cell phone) a towel, gloves, a hat, water-bottle, sunglasses and a headlight (preferred), flashlight or lantern. And if you need to make LD telephone calls, a calling card as we have no LD service available. You also ought to pack along any personal hygiene/first aid supplies you might need and finally, if you are allergic to poison oak, we suggest strongly that you tote along whatever is your favored prophylaxis or remedy/treatment as well for the inevitable springtime bloom.

So, please get back to us with the requested information and we can take it from there. Again, thanks for contacting us and we look forward to hearing from you!

What Else

- Smokers allowed

+ Internet Access

+ Have animals/pets