NEWS FROM MARIQUITA: A CSA Journal

Kinky Carrots
It's astounding to what uses Andy Griffin's farmers' market customers will put his kinky, crooked carrot culls. Every carrot has a home.

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

Posted June 2, 2004: At our San Francisco farmers market stand we often provide our customers with helpful recipes printed on slips of paper. What the public actually does with the vegetables they purchase from us, once they are in the privacy of their own homes, is entirely up to them, as our most recent harvest of root crops illustrates.

As spring advances and the planting schedule is translated from the little squares on my calendar to the actual rows in the field it seems I never have enough land for everything to fit. This year, rather than reduce my plantings I decided to harvest the carrots and parsnips that remained in the field, top them, bag them, and put them into storage to free up some ground.

I don’t have much refrigerator space. When I saw how much product was coming out of the ground I checked in with my friend Dick Peixoto, the owner of Lakeside Organics. Lakeside has a huge cooler and, fortunately for me, it wasn’t full. Dick was gracious enough to give me some space. In went the roots. Of course not all of the carrots were straight as arrows - some were kinky, some were forked, some had ‘anatomically correct’ rootlets. This doesn’t bother me. I sell them all.

Upon observing some of the more cosmetically challenged carrots in my “pack” Dick was moved to remark that during a recent carrot harvest in the Arizona desert they had had to leave behind on the dirt bins and bins worth of cull carrots. I wasn’t sure if he was being envious or critical so I rushed to tell him just who is paying cash for my weirder vegetables.

The straight and narrow isn’t for everyone. Some farmers market customers are so frugal or warm-hearted that they can’t bear to see a crooked carrot get thrown away so they especially seek them out. THIS JUST IN - Their dollars are worth 100 cents, too. And then there are the consumers who dress up their carrot in underpants - their money is good, as well. I’m not lying. One shopper of mine is no chef, but she is a photographer and she likes to take funny carrots whose funny shapes make them erotically suggestive and dress them up in tiny lingerie she sews herself. Then she photographs the roots in artistic poses. Why not? Who says we have to eat every carrot we buy? Some people find more fulfillment with arts and crafts.

Another customer of ours sorts through our displays of carrots to find roots with curves and spurs suggestive of rumps and penises and photographs them without dressing, “au natural.” When she has enough photos she’s proud of she plans to put on an exhibit. She’s asked me if I wouldn’t advertise her show in the email newsletter we send out each week to our farmers market customers. You bet I will. With any luck her show will be banned by the authorities and then we can sue to protect our first amendment rights. My farmers market stall will be famous. Everyone knows that both fame and infamy help to promote a product. I sell carrots. You folks can grow straight and narrow carrots for the one pound cello pack, but save me the kinky ones. I’m frugal and warm-hearted and I don’t throw anything away.

Previous Journal Entries

May 11, 2004
Ain't I smart? Carelessness, poor planning and neglect leads Mariquita's Andy Griffin to discover the true value of a strange old heirloom crop--black Spanish radish.

April 20, 2004
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.

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.