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
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
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, legitimate again.
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!