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
Soil type: silty loam
Regenerative practices: cover
cropping, crop rotation, fallowing
Length of season: all year
April 20, 2004: The crowded courtroom was
steaming hot and smelled like a locker room. To make matters
worse, the court sounded like a video arcade, what with all
the defendants’ cell phones chirping out tiny bytes
of pre-programmed pop tunes for ring tones. The judge demanded
that we turn off our phones. The court-appointed interpreter
repeated her commands in Spanish. One by one phones were clicked
off. Then, in the relative calm of the sweaty hall of justice,
one phone rang out loudly with a beeping rendition of Wagner’s
Ride of the Valkyries. Her Honor was not amused. The bailiff
moved to confiscate the offending phone with all the dread
purpose a Valkerie herself might summon up to remove a slain
hero off the battlefield to Valhalla. Now the courtroom was
crowded, stinking, hot,....and quiet...
Sigh... Another day on the farm.
Some of our farm’s customers entertain the romantic
notion that I, being an organic farmer, spend my days in contemplative
harmony with nature. Fat chance. Like any small business owner
I end up doing what I cannot afford to pay someone else to
do. I wear a lot of hats during a week. I was in court because
my driver's fix-it ticket for a burned out brake light had
morphed into a $1300 fine for failure to appear and failure
to pay. Jail time was pending. In his defense, his wife had
passed away in Mexico and he had returned home to deal with
life’s issues. So I played country lawyer, got the charges
and fines reduced to zero and got my driver, Don Gerardo,
Of course, various bureaucractic hassles prevented Don Gerardo
from having his license renewed immediately. So, in the meantime,
I was the driver hauling product from the field to the cooler
and from the cooler to our restaurant accounts in the city.
When I finally got a moment to “be” a farmer,
I discovered the heat wave had pushed my fall planting of
Royal Chantenay and Scarlet Wonder carrots to bolt to flower.
Yikes! Only our Kütigger white carrots had tolerated
the heat and were worth harvesting. Quick! Time to leave farming
to my foreman and focus on promoting the sales of white carrots
before they bolted too.
White carrots don’t sell themselves. Yes, they are
more bolt-resistant and hardier than orange carrots but many
(most?) people confuse them with parsnips. A lot of consumers
simply refuse to believe that a carrot can be any color but
orange. So Julia and I wrote articles for our farm newsletter
promoting Kütigger carrots, the heirloom white carrot
of Kütiggen, Switzerland. I doffed my chef’s toque
and researched recipes for white carrots that paired the unusual
root with other crops we are harvesting now, like chervil.
We printed recipes on slips of paper and put them next to
our carrot display in the farmers market so as to encourage
the intrepid shopper to try something new. We asked the restaurants
we deliver to if they would provide recipes for the products
we sell them to get a little cross marketing action going.
So there you go; quack lawyer, truck driver, fake chef, and
borderline carnival barker is all in this farmer’s job
description. Oh, and once in a while I get to contemplate
nature. Hats off to farming!