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
Soil type: silty loam
Regenerative practices: cover
cropping, crop rotation, fallowing
Length of season: all year
August 31, 2004: The Honorable Willie Brown
was mayor of San Francisco when that city hosted the US Mayors
conference a number of years back. A breakfast was held for
the visiting dignitaries down on the waterfront next to the
Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. It was a clear, beautiful morning
as the nation's mayors gathered around their tables for speeches,
prayers, and croissants.
I had an immense pile of tomatoes for sale nearby. A number
of protestors attracted by all the dignitaries but denied
access to the breakfast approached my market stall. "Do
you have any organic sauce tomatoes," an activist inquired,
"...cheap ones, to throw at Da Mayor?"
This remains one of the very few times I have ever refused
When taking people's money I try to be as democratic as possible.
But as much as I hunger for a big wad of dollars in my hand
I know that I'm only allowed to sell my produce in town by
the grace and good humor of the authorities. It seemed like
bad karma to involve myself in the tangled mystery of San
Francisco's politics by becoming the supplier of ripe tomatoes
to anarchists of dubious social standing.
In San Francisco, farmers markets have become one of the few
avenues by which the public can experience a connection, however
vicarious or ephemeral, with the production of their food.
True, shoppers here are unlikely to encounter a scene as visceral
as that of a steer, skinned and dismembered, displayed for
sale on the street piled upon its own hide as I saw in the
Tarija, Bolivia, farmers market -- but they can talk to a
farmer. For farmers the market, besides being a welcome source
of income, is also a place to socialize and see how the other
98 percent lives.
The market is often the high point of my week. But constant
exposure to the unfiltered public has its downside. Every
village has its idiot but in my fifteen years of selling in
open air markets across central California it seems as though
my own community of Santa Cruz is especially blessed. When
I think back on the very few customers I have ever"fired,"
almost all of them were at the Santa Cruz market.
There was the fellow who always wanted to pay for his purchase
with a spontaneous poem. I like to support poetry so one day
I asked him for a few lines so I could judge their value.
It turned out he specialized in violent misogynistic rants.
But I can get that for free off a public bathroom wall any
day, so no deal.
Then there was the guy with the crystal. He'd show up every
week dangling a quartz crystal from a fishing line over the
produce display in a trance "reading" the vegetables
for positive energy before making a purchase. “Bad energy,”
he’d say, pointing to one cabbage. “Good energy,”
he’d murmur, indicating another. When he tried to get
a read on my head I invited him to take his shopping elsewhere.
Finally there was the time the market was threatened by protesters
protesting the threat of nuclear holocaust. In fairness to
Santa Cruz, the folks responsible for this stunt were not
local talent but had been bussed in by the organization Food
Not Bombs from Berkeley.
For a public consciousness-raising demonstration these anti-nuclear
war protesters came to the market en masse then "fell
down dead" to dramatize nuclear apocalypse. The prostrate
bodies of the “victims” made shopping an obstacle
course. This theater of the absurd didn't raise any eyebrows
in Santa Cruz, but eventually the growers asked the manager
for help to get the protesters removed so sales could resume.
When she asked them to please exercise their first amendment
rights by lying dead at the edge of the parking lot so nobody
would trip, they jumped up and started yelling "fascist!"
On days like this I’m reminded that one of the profits
I take home from the farmers market is a renewed appreciation
for my quiet, uneventful life in the country.
can keep your lemonade...
Life gave me elderberries, not lemons, and that's
just fine with me, says Andy.
Andy discovers how his first-ever planting of
stiff-necked garlic got it's scientific name and
stumbles upon another marketing gimmick--spicy
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
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
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
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 publicity.