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
||August 17, 2004:
If life gave me lemons I would make lemonade; after all, every farmer
knows the future is in value-added products. With all the time consumers
spend commuting to earn the money to buy their daily bread, who has
time to toast it anymore? But I don’t have lemon trees, I have
elderberry trees. Elderberry trees are wild here in California, typically
growing as riparian shrubs, with clusters of tiny, astringent fruits
produced throughout the early summer. In an attempt to squeeze proverbial
lemonade from my elderberry trees I’ve launched a mini marketing
campaign. So far the results have been intoxicating.
We have the elderberry trees on our farm entirely by accident.
Our farm fields lie along Pacheco creek, an intermittent stream
that runs from the dry hills of the Mt. Hamilton Range into the
Pajaro River. Water makes only a seasonal appearance in Pacheco
creek, going underground in late spring to wait until next fall’s
rains before rising to the surface again. Throughout the summer
the watercourse is tangled with brambles and beaded with occasional
puddles. In the old days when fruit was a luxury on the frontier
the pioneers would walk the creek beds to gather elderberries for
pies. Almost any fruit, no matter how sour or tannic, will taste
good with enough sugar. These days, with such a glut of cheap fruit
in the supermarket no one (well, almost no one) would consider cooking
with elderberries, and absolutely no one plants them.
Birds planted the elderberries on my farm. Before we leased these
acres the land was fenced in corrals and the owner boarded horses.
The birds ate wild elderberries in the creek then sat on the corral
fences singing “tweet, tweet, tweet.” Eventually elders
sprouted under the boards of the corrals. The horse ranch went broke,
the elder saplings tapped into the water table, and soon there were
rows of elder hedges bordering the fields. When I started farming
the land we removed the fences but not the elders. I had read that
it is bad luck to kill an elder, besides; I wanted trees for wind
breaks and habitat. We irrigate the fields so the elders are growing
lush. Seeing the elder boughs loaded made me wonder how I might
sell the berries.
As a kid my neighbor Lois would employ me to gather elderberries
for pies that she would enter in the county fair. Lois was a fabulous
cook, and because her pies had a historical flavor that conjured
up Monterey County’s past she would always win first prize.
Gathering wild fruit is way too expensive to contemplate now, but
I have what amounts to an accessible commercial planting. I’ve
taken elderberries to the farmers market in San Francisco. The purple
berries add a dash of novelty to our stall and some chefs have purchased
them to jazz up their own menus. They tell me the tartness of elderberry
jelly makes for an interesting contrast with the richness of wild
game and their wild natures complement each other. An elderberry
syrup over a handmade ice cream makes for a luxurious desert, too.
For me, the most fun has been inviting market customers out to
the farm to pick their own elderberries. So few people cook anymore,
especially with ingredients most relevant to centuries past. But
the people who do cook, the people for whom convenience is an over
rated virtue, the Slow Food aficionados, these folks know how to
have fun. They make elderberry wine. I don’t have the time
to make wine but I’ve got some bottles received as gifts mellowing
on the rack. You keep your lemons and your lemonade; I’m doing
just fine with wine.
Andy discovers how his first-ever planting of stiff-necked
garlic got it's scientific name and stumbles upon another
marketing gimmick--spicy serpents.
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.
July 2, 2004
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
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
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
April 20, 2004
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
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
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
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
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