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
September 28 , 2004: Almost anybody can come
up to you in a farmers market and tell you that their grandpa
used to be a farmer. Go back just a few generations and most
Americans were farmers or kept livestock. Very few of us were
rich city folk, very few of us were Barons or Princes or Tycoons,
and most of us at least kept chickens, a cow, and a garden.
Now, of course, very few of us are farmers.
The fact that so few farmers are required to feed America is generally understood
to be a good sign, a sign of progress. The problem is that
we farmers who remain are living in a democracy. We have to
work with, or around, the policies that an increasingly uninformed
public votes on. Agricultural issues are not “sexy”
and are not usually given much notice in the press. It is
easy for farmers to feel that their side of the story, be
it a water controversy, an immigration issue or conservation
dispute, just isn’t being heard. If you’re like
me, you can even find plenty to object about with the things
that organizations that purport to speak on your behalf say.
Lots of small farmers feel like they don’t have a voice.
I’m opinionated. Once my wife and I decided to focus
our farming efforts on developing a community supported agriculture
program, I began to channel my thoughts into a newsletter.
After all, part of the way CSA farms pay back the folks who
support them is to give them news about where their money
is being spent. Communication is at the heart of community.
The mainstream press may be quiet about agricultural issues
but the public has an appetite for information about how their
food is grown. I’m surprised by how integral our newsletter
has become to our CSA program. Now, after three hundred issues,
our newsletter is even attracting attention beyond our little
community of subscribers. I’ve been flattered this year
to be invited to do a series of radio spots for our local
Public Radio station, KUSP, 88.9 fm. They title the pieces
“Life On The Farm.”
There is, or ought to be, a natural affinity between community
supported radio stations and community supported farms. KUSP
offered me two 90 second spots every Thursday and Friday to
read pieces that are around 250 words long. I record four
pieces at a time. The recordings are played once in the morning
in the middle of NPR’s popular Morning Edition and once
in the evening before All Things Considered. Since even NPR
doesn’t “consider” agriculture as frequently
or seriously as I would like, I feel grateful to get a chance
to get a word in. The trick has been to learn how to compress
complex issues into 90 seconds and to use my soap box in a
manner that reflects credit on the radio station.
I don’t waste words whining. The ag-related stories
the media does cover are usually news of disasters, famines,
and tales of rural heartbreak. My role is not to confirm for
listeners what they already think they know about life on
the farm but to challenge them to look at agriculture in a
new way. Informative stories that take listeners out of their
cars, offices, or homes and into the fields are experienced
as a refreshing break. The focus of each piece is seasonal
and local and I hope to make the landscape come alive for
people. Learning to speak in sound bytes and trying to keep
the message positive has been an interesting discipline for
me. Printed out below for you all to read are a couple of
the pieces I’ve read for the radio; maybe your public
radio station might find room for your own thoughts about
KUSP radio piece #1
This is Andrew Griffin of Mariquita Farm with Life On
The Farm. President Bush might be interested to know
he can find thousands of Black Republicans here on the central
coast on my neighbor Betty Van Dyke’s ranch near Gilroy.
The only catch is these Black Republicans are cherries and
the President had better come quick. Cherry season passes
quickly. (I think of it more as cherry “moment”.
||President Bush might be interested
to know he can find thousands of Black Republicans here
on the central coast on my neighbor Betty Van Dyke’s
ranch near Gilroy. The only catch is these Black Republicans
are cherries and the President had better come quick.
Cherry season passes quickly.
Bing cherries are a signature crop for the Van Dykes but
they grow other kinds as well. A Bing cherry will not self
pollinate. A grower must intersperse Bings with a different
cultivar, like the Black Republican, for cross pollination.
Betty showed me how to recognize a Black Republican by its
erect habit. The canopy of a Bing is more rounded.
Black Republicans and Bings are related. In 1860, Seth Lewelling,
an orchardist in Oregon, expressed pro-Union sentiments by
naming a promising cherry variety the Black Republican. In
1875 Lewelling developed another new cherry, this one grown
out from a Black Republican seed. He called it the Bing in
honor of Bing, his Chinese foreman.
Sometimes it seems that every spring rain portends doom for
local cherry growers so I was happy to hear from Betty that
this season is shaping up well. Van Dyke Bing cherries are
at their peak now but for any of you passing through the Liveoak
Farmers market or the Capitola Farmers market for a taste
I have to endorse their local Black Republicans as well. For
K.U.S.P. this is Andrew Griffin.
Another KUSP radio piece:
This is Andrew Griffin of Mariquita Farm with Life On
The Farm. The dot com bubble a few years back that inflated
rents in San Francisco had one good side effect. My farm got
A friend, Melanie, who lived in the Haight Ashbury and kept
beehives in her back yard got disgusted with the cost of living
and moved back east. She sold her hives to another refugee
from the city, Greg Muck, now a friend and neighbor of mine.
Two of Greg’s hives ended up on my farm. The bees seem
quite comfortable hunting for pollen and nectar in the wilds
of Hollister instead of Golden Gate Park.
This year Greg is endeavoring to add to his apiary by catching
a wild swarm. To do so he stations an empty brood box about
seven feet off the ground, the altitude bees prefer to cruise
at. Then he attaches a “come hither” lure which
attracts bees with a synthetic nasonov gland pheremone. When
an existing bee colony gets overcrowded the queen will leave,
taking about half the workers with her in a swarm to scout
out a new home. A bee swarm makes for an alarming sight to
the uninformed but swarming bees are not dangerous, only homeless.
If you encounter a wild swarm, help them find a home by contacting
a local beekeeper. Animal Control and the Police both keep
lists of beekeepers willing to capture wild hives. Beekeepers
are a gregarious lot and often help each other find and maintain
hives. You may get a sweet reward for your efforts. For KUSP
this is Andrew Griffin.