Tam Adams of Emandal – A Farm by a River
By Renée Tillotson
If you’ve ever met someone by chance, for just a short period of time, and left thinking, “Wow, that person could be one of my best friends,” then you’ll understand what a delight it was for me to meet Tamara Adams, owner of Emandal – A Farm by a River in the foothills of Northern California. The welcome that she and her daughter Kashaya provided to our extended family during our daughter’s 3-day wedding caused us to promise one another to come back for a reunion in the not-too-distant future.
Emandal is a place out of time where families unite in friendship and fairy tales really do come true. The farm features not-so-rustic cabins with fans and running water for “glamping”, as well as rooms in real buildings for those who crave a “cushier” experience. The food served in the dining hall astonishes the taste buds. For our first breakfast at Emandal we eat hot rolls straight out of the oven, with four flavors of their many farm-made jams (also available as exquisite souvenirs with artistic labels), plus their own granola, farm-roasted coffee, and yogurt made from the milk of one of their cows. Who wouldn’t feel friendly after a breakfast like that?!?
Two friends named Em and Al created Emandal Farm in 1908 – hence the property’s name! Notice also that the farm was originally built upon friendship. This farm has been offering sanctuary, country living, farm-fresh food and wonderful companionship for over a century.
By the time Tamara Adams first came to Emandal in 1964 as a life-guard just out of highschool, the Clive Adams family had owned the place for decades. There Tam met Clive, Jr., and she roomed with his girlfriend for the two weeks of her stay. By the time Clive Sr. rehired Tam for the last 10 days of the summer season, the girlfriend had disappeared. Clive Jr.,a tall, handsome hank of a man, drove Tam to UC Davis to start college, where she studied winemaking and child-development.
Tam and Clive Jr. married after a 3-4 year courtship and eventually had four children. Although the wine-making never really took off, her child-development education paid off. The commute over a dirt road to school in Willits was too long, so Tam hired a tutor to teach their kids at home. Then the Superintendent for Willits Unified School District got a grant to establish a “A Necessary Small School Program”, and for the next 17 years Emandal provided official Kindergarten-8th grade schooling for the Adams kids and many of the surrounding neighbor children. My husband and I stayed in the old school house, now converted into guest rooms, and saw the wall where all the school children’s heights were marked and dated! Fun to see local history intact!
Tam definitely had her work cut out for her, learning the operations of the thousand-acre farm that doubled as a summer camp. Fortunately she had always enjoyed cooking. Now she learned the timing of meal prep for large groups from Grandfather Adams and the creativity of opening a big farm refrigerator with Grandma Adams, asking: “So! What shall we put together for supper tonight?!?” As a super creative herself, Tam advanced Emandal into the fresh food movement of California Cuisine happening at that time, introducing such specialties as hand-cranked ice cream and fresh, oven-baked bread.
Once Tam and Clive married, they added girls to the existing summer camps for boys, which they maintained for the next 30 years. They even ran environmental camps for schools. Kids love the animals, the open space, and jumping off the rocks down at the river that runs by the farm.
Clive took sick and passed away in 2003. Running the kids camp without him just seemed impossible. So Tam turned the kids camp into a family camp, which she and various ones of her children ran until Covid hit. At that point, her eminently practical daughter Kashaya – herself a graduate of culinary school and a pizza caterer – said, “Mom, we just can’t keep serving 3 meals a day to all these people!”
With Covid lifting, those many generations of happy campers (truly!) are returning, and at various times of the year. They’re now becoming a little more self-sufficient, doing some of their cooking at the outdoor camp kitchens or in the guest houses… and they still get Tam and Kashaya’s amazing breakfasts!
As busy as she can be hosting her guests and keeping the farm running simultaneously, Tam always has time for a laugh and a friendly word. It’s a fulfilling life, bringing the joy of togetherness in a beautiful outdoor space to so many guests at Emandal – A Farm by a River.
If you have a sense of humor, as Tam does, you’ll appreciate knowing that our post-ceremony wedding toasts were occasionally punctuated by a donkey braying in agreement with the sentiments being expressed! The friendly human/animal balance is well-maintained at Emandal.
For the more in-depth story of hosting our daughter’s wedding at Emandal, please see HERE.
Emendal – A Farm by a River
16 miles NE of Willits in Mendocino County, California
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