NEWS FROM MARIQUITA: A CSA Journal

Hats off to the many sombreros of a farmer
Quack lawyer, truck driver, fake chef, and borderline carnival barker: all in a day’s work for a farmer like Andy Griffin … and once in a while he gets to contemplate nature.

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

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!

Previous Journal Entries
April 2, 2004
The watermelon radish: Conspiracy from the left or the right … or just a darned good heirloom daikon? Those were among the suspicions raised by this ancient veggie at a recent event in Santa Cruz designed to introduce consumers to local food producers.

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.

March 23, 2004
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.