NEWS FROM MARIQUITA: A CSA Journal

NOW is the time for shameless self-promotion
He can't plant, cultivate or harvest--the fields are a swamp--but Mariquita's Andy Griffin can sell shares and hustle publicity.

By Andy Griffin

Farm-at-a-glance

Mariquita Farm

Location: Land in Watsonville and Hollister
Years farming: Andy has farmed for the last 20 years in various capacities from farmworker to owner, from large farm to small.
Total acres farmed: 25
Key people: Andy, farmer and rave king; Julia, farm wife, CEO, mom, email elf, etc.; España, foreman, tractor driver, all around repairman; Jose España, head harvester; Lourdes Duarte, head vegetable packer
Range of crops: greens, root crops, tubers and herbs, berries, peppers, tomatoes, garlic, melons, artichokes, and more besides that.
Marketing methods: CSA and 1 farmers market, with a small number of carefully selected restaurants that pick up at the farmers market
Soil type: silty loam
Regenerative practices: cover cropping, crop rotation, fallowing
Length of season: all year

The left overs: Red, white and orange carrots are among the few crops Mariquita still has to offer right now, as the 2004 CSA season begins in CA.

March 23 , 2004: It is raining again. The fields are swampy. At Mariquita Farm we can’t disk, or list, or cultivate, or plant, and we can barely harvest. Our 2004 CSA delivery season starts in March, with hungry customers from Monterey to San Francisco waiting for their first boxes of fresh veggies. This has me in a bit of a panic. But since the early spring isn’t the easiest season to farm it becomes the season for.... ta - dah! ... SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION!

“Why,” you ask “would you aggressively make promises about future harvests just exactly when you feel uneasy about your ability to produce them?” Easy. I need the money that comes from checks subscribers will send me, I believe in the power of prayer, and I have some seven years of prior experience to guide me.

It’s like this. I DO have some product overwintering in the ground, like parsnips, Indian red carrots, Belgian white carrots, chantenay carrots, and Amsterdam cutting celery. During a dry spell several weeks ago we squeaked in a planting of orach, beets, and chard. Plus we run our CSA in concert with another small farm called High Ground Organics. We call our joint effort Two Small Farms CSA. Presumably Stephen Pedersen of High Ground Organics has sneaked a few plantings in. I should call him right now. And I’m going to pray for a brief drought so we can do some more planting.

“But wouldn’t it make more sense to start your CSA deliveries a bit later, say, May, when harvest are more assured?”

No. In March people are still murmuring their New Year’s resolutions to themselves about eating healthy vegetables, supporting their neighborhood farms, and cooking at home more often. By May cherries and peaches have arrived, the sun promises summer fun and the public’s attention drifts from vitamins, health, and responsible living. I say sign the people up in February and March when they are hungry for fresh produce and they are paying the highest price at the supermarket for the poorest produce picked from the most distant climes. Then pray for divine help in your effort to assist the public in eating a more conscious diet and doing good by their neighbor.

Also, news-wise, late winter is dead. Food sections in local papers are starving for stories come March and editors may be open to publish stories about the efforts of local farmers to supply fresh produce for local markets. Even radio programers might be hungry for something different than presidential politics, war news, and celebrity scandals and find time to interview a farmer. If nothing else March is a time to plan for future publicity opportunities so the farm is ready for them when they pop up during the busy production season. So far this year we have a couple of school presentations planned and a tentative date set for a radio interview about CSA on KSCO, a local am radio station to us in Santa Cruz, CA.

To keep things mixed up and reach as broad a spectrum of people as possible we are planning a “winter abundance” meal with chef Joseph Manzare of Globe restaurant in SF. Globe buys lots of our produce all year 'round, and our abundance meal can feature our crops like parsnips, red, white, and orange carrots, orach, and beets as well as our weeds, like nettles. And we are planning a farm open house. It will all work out. I just need to keep one eye focused on future, one eye glued to the sky, and one eye fixed on the bottom line.

Previous Journal Entries

March 4, 2004
Guerilla garlic
Battling the influx of cheap Chinese garlic—even in to Gilroy, the “Garlic Capital of the World”—Mariquita Farm grows green spring garlic, and banks its garlic dollars long before the garlic festival in July.

February 13, 2004
New riders of the purple goosefoot In Watsonville, California, the founders of Mariquita CSA discover the value of this antique cousin to spinach.