Keep Rollin'
While the rest of the world savors basil and tomatoes, Andy gets pumped up to plant parsnips. It's all part of the cycle.

By Andy Griffin


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 July 20, 2004: We are about to close another circle at Mariquita Farm. The weather here is hot now. In the still of the morning I can almost smell the basil growing. While the scent of basil might prompt some folks to a summery, Mediterranean mood flavored of pesto and warm tomatoes fresh from the garden I know it is time to begin thinking about winter roots again.

To be sure, we still have about 1000 lbs of parsnips stored in the cooler. Of course the public has lost all interest in parsnips now that there are cherries, peaches, strawberries, and raspberries in the market. Well, almost everyone. I take a few totes of parsnips to the farmers market each week for our Britannic ex-pat customers so they can savor “mashed neeps and taters”. “Mashed neeps and taters” is English for mashed parsnips and potatoes and, to hear it from them, nothing tastes as sweetly of England as a good parsnip boiled with potato and mashed with butter. But most of our remaining parsnips are now being fed to my goats who don’t read cooking magazines and aren’t conscious of “seasonality”.

It is the season to plant parsnips again if I want them on the table for the first cool days of November. Parsnip seed germinates well if it is fresh but it does take a long time. While the seed is swelling it needs to be kept consistently moist. Where we are farming this can be difficult because not only is the weather hot, it is also frequently quite windy. Watering parsnips every day until they emerge ties up sprinkler pipe we need for other plantings. Daily irrigation plus daily winds work together to create a hard shell to the soil which the tiny parsnip sprouts have a hard time cracking. Then there is bird and insect predation to worry about.

In an effort to keep pests off the parsnips we began cloaking the beds with Agrofabric, a translucent, permeable rowcover made of woven fiberglass. We discovered that all the umbellifereae we covered right at sowing time germinated beautifully. The fabric kept the wind from drying out the soil so it didn’t crust up so quickly. The mild shading effect of the row cover appeared to slightly cool the soil too and help to convince the parsnip seedlings they were sprouting under English skies. We didn’t have to water so often which helped us with labor and power costs, and we were able to better care for our summer crops.

About the time my stinky billy goat in his corral and the lavender scented English ladies in their apartments in San Francisco finish chewing the last bite of last season’s parsnips the new crop will be popping out of the ground. It is another cycle we are embarking on and I’m happy as long as we keep rolling.

Previous Journal Entries

July 2, 2004
Keep Truckin' Stop! Put that plastic truck (or other piece of marketing swag) down and back away. Think smart promotion to keep your small farm in the public eye.

June 2, 2004
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.

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.