For Anna Beuselinck, fierce independence has long been central to her professional life, from taking a post in Moscow in her early 20s, to moving to China for Nike, to starting her own business. Her latest adventure, Visionary/Life Gardener at Campovida, explodes her out of a comfy life into full-throttle, highly-satisfying unpredictability. She tells us what it’s like to bring a forgotten vineyard back to life, why humans (like plants) need composting, and how getting back to basics is the future of everything, especially travel.
Anna came to our attention by our friend and favorite walker Libby DeLana. Here is what she had to say: “Anna and her family moved out of the Bay area 90 miles north to the beautiful, small, agricultural community of Hopland, CA. Hopland because that is where hops were grown for beer. Their intention: To nurture, grow, plant, harvest, and till the soil of a community that had been overlooked. Campovida is the heartbeat of this effort, an old winery that had been forgotten, and now is a welcoming and thriving winery, gathering space, garden, apiary, home to 40 chickens and a sassy donkey. The wine is exquisite, hard stop. But the story of how it is made, with love and respect, is what tastes so necessary.”
Anna, you’ve done something that’s on many people’s bucket list: adventured out of a life that feels a little too small or comfy and jumped into a whole new one. You’ve had a successful career in far corners of the world, now you live on a vineyard that you’ve restored to life, among 500- to 700-year-old trees. What was the inspiration?
My original vision was to get a little farm, a place to retreat, a place I could bring my clients perhaps, where we could spend time with our two daughters, and be outside. We over shot it a bit! Here we are now with acres of organic vineyards, and we’re farmers! It wasn’t a vision that we went after in a direct way. It revealed itself over many, many months. But if I had to trace it back, I would say it all began when I started to feel a bit too comfortable in the life we were in. Our life was kind of set, but unsatisfying. Being comfortable always makes me uncomfortable.
“I’ve always been a believer in planting seeds of kindness and humanity. At Campovida, I tend to the gardens of life…all things having to do with our guests and members”
When I saw your title at Campovida, I thought, well now that’s one I might like to have. What is a Life Gardener?
I’ve always been a believer in planting seeds of kindness and humanity. At Campovida, I tend to the gardens of life, which means all things having to do with our guests and members. The wine tastes better when you feel welcomed. When you’re not stressed, your palate changes. I’m not kidding; it’s science!
Describe a day in la vida at Campovida
Up early AM, hubby brings me coffee (it’s a ritual)
Feed the animals (sheep, chickens, and our dog Boomer)
See the donkey
Feed the kids (yes, animals before kids)
Get kids ready for school (since the pandemic, we’ve set up our own little school house for all the moms who work with us)
Work day starts
Insert unplanned act of nature!
Can you give us an example of a recent unplanned act of nature?
I woke up the other morning, and the whole grassy area in front of our house was rolled back like someone had just come in and rolled it back. And we’re like, “Oh, no. Wild pigs.” Someone had gifted me a night camera, so I got out the batteries and got it loaded. Because if it’s wild pigs, they can take out everything really quickly…So, no, it wasn’t a wild pig. It was a raccoon. A raccoon just coming every night rolling up the grass. Oh my God. So I don’t know if I remember your question anymore. What was your question?
This sounds a bit like The Biggest Little Farm
Yes! Our life is just like that, without the film crew! In fact, Alan York, the biodynamic farmer/agricultural savant in the film, designed our garden.
What adventure means to you in three words.
Exploration, Exhilaration, Growth.
Hopland, CA (pop. 817!) is only 90 minutes from one of the most well-known cities in the world, San Francisco. But that distance is akin to traveling to a whole other country…
Absolutely. People are leaving the city and they go up to about Healdsburg, and they don’t go further than that. What they don’t know is that if they drive only 25 miles more north, there is this little town that is at the intersection of everything. It has the beautiful and the ugly. I love to surprise people into exploring.
“I love to surprise people into exploring”
For those who do venture the extra 25 miles, what’s the biggest surprise?
Honestly, I think people are looking for a pure experience that reminds them of getting back to the basics. And I do think that’s what we’re doing: we’re just sort of getting back to the basics here.
We source from biodynamic fruits, we’re certified organic, and we use animals to till the land. We also handpick. So yeah, we do everything like they did in the old days. Most people are really surprised to walk in and see us in the tasting room, or driving around in the tractor, or tending to the land, pulling the weeds, taking out the garbage. They just don’t expect to see the family really running the business.
Do you think of yourself as an adventurist?
I like the word adventure. It makes me think of Winnie the Pooh. Who, by the way, I recently found out is actually a girl bear!
You’ve recast your life more than a few times. How do you know when it’s time to stay with an endeavor or to move on? Is there a signal you listen for?
When you do something that is big, or make a big decision even, you ask yourself: “Would you do that for the next ten years? Is that a conversation you want to be in 10 years from now?” Whenever I am in the middle of a question, I have this ongoing conversation that pops up, especially whenever I start to feel a little comfortable.
What is the conversation you want to be in 10 years from now?
In ten years, my one daughter will be 21, and the other will be 24. I’ve been asking them, “What do you imagine for yourself?” What’s evolving for me is: How do I continue creating connection that allows for the next generation to have an appreciation for the abundance that is here?
“I think we’d all be better off if we worked for Mother Nature for at least a year”
When you’re not being a farmer/winemaker/gatherer/restaurateur/full-time mom to two…you’re also a leadership coach. Can we all learn a little something from the farm?
I think we’d all be better off if we worked for Mother Nature for at least a year. I use a lot of metaphors. My corporate clients, when they hear the term Life Gardener, it resonates. And then I’ll say, “You know how in a good garden, you have rich compost? And compost is shit, right? We got to turn that shit up to get the heat going and make stuff grow.” All of a sudden, they’re like, “Oh, that’s why you’ve been dealing with my shit!” Yes. We’re gonna grow good things from it. Magic, really productive, juicy bits for you to live off of.
Resilience and Wildfire
It’s easy to romanticize life on vineyard. But it actually takes an incredible amount of hard work, and there are a lot of things not in your control. What’s it like to work for Mother Nature?
When you work for Mother Nature directly, it’s more like dog’s years! She’s gonna humble you, time and time again.
As an example, four years ago, when we had our first fire, half of my employees lost their homes. And it was so shocking that it took us some time to kind of rebound. And then the following summer, we had another fire that came close by, and then the next summer, and then the fall, and then this year. So what happens is we adapt. We get sturdier. Now, I ask myself, are we prepared? I constantly have this bag that I have all my kids’ passports and birth certificates. And it’s always right by the door.
We adapt, we evolve, we find gratitude, we put on our boots, and we get up and do it again. There’s a whole lot of poetry; like, the raven doesn’t get up in the morning and go “Oh, I can’t do this again.” And the bees don’t go, “Oh, I’m feeling bored, how come I’m not the queen bee?” So we just get up and do it again.
You’re one of 11 brothers and sisters. How do you think this has influenced you?
When you’re 1 of 11 kids, there’s no room to be spoiled.
The most beautiful or surprising thing that happened on the farm today.
It wasn’t today, but it made a lasting impression. It was in the middle of the night, around 1 am, and I heard something, so I opened the door, and just three seconds later …a big tree fell. I literally heard it before it happened. A tree falling out here can take out people, whole buildings. It just missed the winery. Things like these change the course of your day, a lot.
Tending vs Working
What’s the difference between tending and working?
You know, it’s kind of like parenting. I think tending is allowing one to see what’s already there. And paying careful attention without intruding. Don’t over-architect, sometimes we just need to stand still and see what’s happening and give space for it to arise and give more trust in the process. And I believe that’s what tending to is. Even the word tender has some care in it. There’s a mutual collaboration in paying attention. The word work kind of sucks the oxygen out of the air, and sometimes you miss the beauty that may have arisen if you just gave it a chance to.
You’re up to some good trouble in the wine industry, what do you mean by that?
Wine has many stereotypes. Privileged, white, fancy, exclusive. We don’t want to be those people. Here, in Oakland, things are more real. People can get really intimidated by wine, and even by Mother Nature. But there’s no need to get intimidated. I get told so often by people who visit that they love to hear the birds out here — can you hear them over the phone? We’re not so precious. We want it to be like, “Hey, you came to our farm, or hey, you came to our event, one of you want to grab a shovel, you want to work with us?” We’re more about showing you what’s real here.
Touchless Wine Tasting
Wine and gathering go hand-in-hand. What does gathering look like now?
It’s so interesting, because of the pandemic, we’ve pivoted our whole business outside. One of our first new experiences, which we are having a lot fun with, is Touchless Tasting. When people arrive we have everything set up for them in the garden, we’ve done all the pre-pouring of the wine, and then we’ve done little mini videos, because in this time people just don’t want you hanging over them. It’s myself and my husband talking about each of the wines, and they’re goofy and hilarious, and people are really loving it. The protocol is very private experiences. But they’re designed with connectivity to us and the lines and the spaces.
We’re really living in the seasons now. Right now, we’re moving through pear season, we still have some figs. So we put a plate full of what’s in the garden on a platter, too. People can taste something that’s been picked that morning and on their plate in the afternoon.
“Our wines are clean, natural, right from the growing cycle all the way through the bottling process”
A sideline, I hear it’s possible to drink a lot of Campovida wine and not get a headache.
Hah. Well, I’ve had people tell they’ve drunk two bottles and don’t get headache. I can’t say that’s true for everyone! But this is: We don’t add the preservatives that give you headaches. Our wines are clean, natural, right from the growing cycle all the way through the bottling process.
Your most memorable trip ever?
Surkhet and Kathmandu, Nepal. I landed on my 50th birthday and was surrounded by the children of Kopila.
If you could travel anywhere in the world with anyone right now (present or past), where would go and with whom?
I would go with my mom (who passed away four years ago) to her home in Shanghai, China. She left as a prisoner of war and never returned. It would be amazing to see it through her eyes and her memories and to be able to have one more conversation with her in person about her incredible life.
Getting back to the basics, shedding, nature, humanness, a connection to what we’re doing. My vision is: Bring more leadership conversations here; have the big conversations from a place of connection.
Where to find Campovida
13601 Old River Road
Hopland, CA 95449
Can’t make to Hopland?
A fun look at the farm life dream
About Anna Beueselinck
As a life gardener, Anna Beuselinck plants seeds of ideas and provides moments of clarity to help individuals, organizations and businesses both dream and develop. She has been a leadership thought partner with companies and individuals for almost three decades. She was the co-founder and host of the DO Lectures USA. She is the mother of 2 daughters, and the co-steward of Campovida, Stock Farm and Thatcher Hotel in Hopland with her husband Gary.
Her background includes decades of leadership study in the fields of human resources, organizational development, executive coaching, culture transformation and team facilitation. Her expertise has included large global brands such as NIKE, Gap Inc., Nestlé, Reebok, as well as start-ups in Technology and Life Sciences. She has consulted with for profit and non-profits and volunteered her time in supporting local county organizations. Learn more about her journey through her interviews with Career Moves and the love story of Campovida.