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
Posted August 3, 2004: The first time I saw garlic
scapes they looked like question marks, and felt like them too.
A scape is the flower stalk of the stiff-necked garlic. “What
is wrong with my garlic?” I wondered.
I was used to growing a soft-necked variety of garlic called California
Early White that doesn’t flower. California Early White is
the garlic that made Gilroy, a town close by my farm, semi-famous
as the self-proclaimed “garlic capital of the world.”
California Early White is mild as garlics go, and stores well.
Each bulb contains a fist full of cloves of varying sizes. Despite
the hassle a cook faces in peeling all the tiny cloves California
Early White garlic remains a chain-store favorite, even if a lot
of it now comes from China and Mexico.
Since garlic is labor intensive, imported garlic from the Third
World has made it more difficult for domestic producers to get a
decent price for their crop, even in the farmers market. Peeled
garlic is popular with restaurants and consumers too lazy to shuck
the small cloves of California Early White garlic -- and they don’t
seem to mind the canned flavor. But “value added” means
capital intensive, and for small growers like myself that is not
To make my way in a market increasingly dominated by importers
and processors I switched gears and began selling California Early
White garlic in its scallion stage as spring garlic. The large numbers
of tiny cloves per head make this garlic a perfect choice for sowing
densely and bunching young like green onions. But the season for
spring garlic is short -- it gets woody with the longer days. Seed
catalogues promote red, stiff-necked garlics as having bigger cloves
packed with flavor. “This sounds like me,” I thought,
“big, red in the face, and stiff necked.” The selling
point would be flavor, I decided, and the convenience of peeling
The eruption of flower stalks had me panicked because I feared
the bulbs wouldn’t size up. I snapped the curly-que flower
stalks off in an attempt to force any of the plants remaining energy
into the bulb. An aroma of fresh garlic made me hungry and caused
me to eat a stalk or two. They were good.
A little research taught me the Chinese had been cooking garlic
stalks for thousands of years, so I began marketing my prunings
as “garlic snakes.” The flower stalks do coil suggestively
like serpents. My marketing gimmick didn’t turn out to be
too crass. First of all, it worked. Customers lined up to buy the
buds I had to prune anyway. Secondly, even the folks who were afraid
to eat garlic snakes crowded around the stall to look at the weird
vegetables and drew more customers in by appealing to their herd
instinct. Lastly, Allium sativum var. ophioscorodom, the scientific
name for the red stiff-necked garlic means “cultivated snake
garlic,” so I’m not even lying.
The first curling stalks of stiff-necked garlic flowers made me
question my future with garlic. Selling “snakes” gave
me an answer I could taste. We will round out the year for garlic
sales with scapes. Cured, dried bulbs of garlic can last through
February after which we sell “spring garlic”. When the
garlic scallions go to stick we can sell “snakes”. As
the snakes stiffen we sell “fresh,” uncured garlic bulbs,
followed again by the papery dried garlic heads. That, at least
is the hope I have in selling garlic scapes.
But, as Eve found out, you can’t trust everything a snake
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