NEWS FROM MARIQUITA: A CSA Journal

Just kidding around
Andy's goats might look like an expensive hobby on paper, but they keep the poison oak under control, entertain the human CSA kids and prevent Andy from pummeling the occasional penny-pinching market customer.

By Andy Griffin

Farm-at-a-glance

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

February 10, 2005: I’m taking a break from spring planting to run a maternity ward and breast feeding clinic....for goats.

Growing vegetables for our community supported agriculture program is my business but caring for a flock of goats is my hobby. If my wife ran the numbers on what it costs the farm to maintain my goats she’d probably object, but I rationalize the expense of their upkeep because they eat the poison oak that grows around our property.

Goats don’t have many problems kidding but it is a good idea to be around for them in case they need help. I’ve constructed nice rain-proof sheds for the goats to sleep in and filled them with piles of clean, fluffy, yellow straw. When a doe kids I like to be right there. I steal the kid from the doe for a moment and dip it’s umbilical cord in iodine to disinfect the wound, then return the kid to the dam and watch. If the mother seems reluctant to bond to her kid or the kid seems confused I’ll restrain the doe and plug the kid on the tit until it sucks.

Kicker: Caption here.

Nothing is cuter than a baby goat so this year we’re planning to have a “kid day” for our CSA subscribers. Our approach to helping our vegetable box subscribers bond with our farm is to offer frequent small scale events that are designed to appeal to different types of people. When we have only a few people we can engage them on a more personal level and answer their questions. This weekend we’re having a winter soup event where people come down for a small class. With the help of a friend who is a professional chef we’re going to teach people how to prepare delicious soups with the winter vegetables we all take for granted, and just for fun we’ll do all the cooking in giant cast iron cauldrons outside over an open fire. I’m going to enjoy myself.

“Kid Day” with baby goats is going to be a bit more work for me. Our goats really do eat poison oak and they walk in it and sleep in it too. Plus, while my goats know me, they are more or less wild and not easy for a stranger to catch. My first idea was to invite our CSA subscribers' children to pet our poison-oaky goats then sell the worried mothers herbal soaps to wash off their children clean, but Julia assured me this wasn’t even something I should joke about. So this year, as soon as my tamest doe kids I’m going to move her to a new, specially constructed poison-oak free-petting-zoo pen. Then my own two kids, Graydon and Magdalena, will be charged with the responsibility of playing with the baby goats every day. This is one farm chore they’re going to enjoy. That way, when our CSA’s “Kid Day” rolls around my goat kids will be ready to handle the affections of our CSA subscribers' human kids.

Besides eating poison oak and teaching children respect for animals, my goats serve as my therapists. Every once in a while I’ll get a farmers' market customer who enjoys underpaying farmers for their work. I won’t bargain. If I sense a customer doesn’t have much money I may figure the price wrong so they get a break, but other wise I set my prices as reasonably as I can and stick to them. One afternoon, as we were cleaning up our market stall after a day’s sales, a fellow came by and filled up his bag with beautiful red and yellow corno di toro peppers.

“That’ll be six dollars,” I say, weighing his purchase.

“How about three”, he replies.

“How about six?” I answer.

“If you don’t sell the peppers to me, “ he says, “you’re not going to sell them to anyone. Three dollars!”

“You’re right, “ I reply, “I won’t sell them to anyone. By the way, what do you do for a living?”

“Oh, I’m a doctor,” he says proudly.

Wrong answer. I remind him that if I show up as his office is closing I don’t get my check-up for half price. As for the peppers...

Kicker: Caption here.

“I’m going to enjoy throwing these peppers over the fence to my goats,” I tell him as I empty his bag. “Maybe goats can’t pay for their meals but they’ll crowd around me bleating and take so much pleasure from their feast that I’ll feel like a gourmet chef looking across a dining room of satisfied customers. You value your time, but you don’t value mine. If I let you beat me down three dollars that I deserve, just because you’re cheap and I need the money, I’ll feel bitter all week.”

That was three years ago when I had five goats. Now I’ve got eleven mature does and ten doelings. I have two kids romping in the green grass of the maternity ward and three fat does ready to kid at any moment. Before we’re done this spring I may have as many as eighteen more new kids. My vegetable prices have never been firmer and I feel good about what I do.

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