News & Photos

September 11, 2018

It is hard to believe that September is upon us already. It is the peak season and everything we have planted for summer, in addition to our year round crops, is contributing to a crescendo of variety that is hard to keep track of.  I think we counted 58 different food crop items and 7 flower crops on our tables at the farmers markets this week.  It is pretty mind-boggling for a farm our size. Some might think it’s insane but there is a bit of method to this big bunch of madness. Diversity as a strategy for organic/ecological pest control is one of the best ways to mimic how nature creates its own balance and thus be less dependent on conventional forms of control. 
We humans have gone through an evolution of food production that likely started out using natural systems in very small localized conditions. Then as agriculture became more widespread, it went through phases of trial and error until we reached what we thought was the pinnacle of modern science. In this mass production scale mono-cropping type of agriculture, success was achieved for a time by trying to control every aspect of the food system regardless of what was going on around it. What was going on around it was nature starting to fight back by trying it’s best to repopulate ecological diversity with its natural control agents, namely insects, weeds and diseases. Man succeeded for a time in suppressing nature. This success is now seen as temporary as it has become harder and harder to fend off ever more resistant diseases and pests in the agricultural sphere by having to develop more powerful forms of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. Much of agriculture, even conventional,  is starting to take notice and is implementing biological controls more and more, not because of appearances but because they actually work in the long term. The old adage that “Nature knows best” still applies.
Speaking of nature, the climate is being fickle this year. The usual summer heat we get near the coast in September is not showing up so far but we are hoping to see some sunnier weather before the end of the month arrives.  In the meantime, enjoy the bounty and the diversity!… Read the rest

July 24, 2018

Keeping up is the name of the game in late July. It’s full summer mayhem in the fields right now. Every day it seems like another summer crop is maturing. We have been patiently waiting for tomato season and as of today, it is on! Quantities will be increasing daily and it will soon overwhelm us as usual, but like I say, it’s better to have too much than to not have enough! 
Although we are not baking like some folks inland, we are getting a fair amount of sun after the fog burns off. Nighttime temperatures are remaining warm due to the coastal fog cover that rolls in. Due to this, there is an acceleration of the ripening of crops. The Early Girl, heirloom and Sungold cherry tomatoes are all pumping out the first few colorful boxes. You should be seeing them at the local farmers markets this week. 
Pest issues have been minimal this year thanks to our very diverse plantings and the surrounding natural habitats. The one exception is that the Italian basil is now starting to be impacted by the dreaded black mold which infects the underside of the basil leaves. This has become more and more of a problem in recent years and we have yet to find a resistant variety to combat it.
Despite that mold issue on the basil, all the fruit crops are looking good. The Blenheim apricots came off well for us this year and the plums are ongoing and looking and smelling great! 
We placed all of our pheromone lures in the apple trees. These traps confuse the Codling Moth once it starts looking to reproduce and multiply; the proverbial worm in the apple. It’s the single best non-toxic effective control known. The apples are delayed this year but the fruit set looks good. Enjoy the summer!  Fall will be here before we know it…… Read the rest

July 10, 2018

The aromas on the farm are all the more potent due to the hot and sunny days we have had of late. Most of the smells wafting around are good…the surrounding redwoods, the bay laurel trees and of course all our patches of culinary herbs.
Now the added smell of ripening summer fruit is in the air. Plums, peaches and apricots are all changing colors and emitting their intoxicating aromas. It’s a great time but it also means the workload is doubling up. If there were 18 hours of daylight, it might still not be enough for us.
Irrigating, harvesting and weeding, they all need doing. Our walk in cooler is overflowing on a daily basis as we try to keep up with the summer bounty. We try to set aside times for all the different jobs but the daily harvest requirements leave very little time for much else. Prioritizing what needs to get done versus what has to wait is the game right now. 
It’s always interesting to see how people’s food choices change with the seasons. We end up selling a lot less kale and lettuce once summer fruit season starts. Makes sense right?  Fresh fruit is only around for a much shorter window, so why not make the most of it while you can? 
Flowers of all different kinds are also in bloom, finally. The majestic sunflowers, spiky gladiolas and the eye-catching dahlias all break up the neat crop rows and make work a little more pleasant.
If you haven’t been to a farmers’ market in a while, now is a great time to go. The diversity of vegetables, fruit and flowers is truly inspiring and eye catching!… Read the rest

June 26, 2018

Our regular weekly plantings this spring are now awakening. The cool days of May delayed some of the crops but have now given way to a Summer Solstice explosion. Everything seems to be happening all at once. Well almost everything. Except for a couple rogue early cherry tomatoes, we have yet to see any ripe tomatoes, peppers or tree fruit but that doesn’t mean the rest of the crops aren’t absolutely going bonkers. 
Our time is now being spent mostly picking pallet after pallet of cilantro, lettuce, fennel, radicchio, spinach and other greens and root crops. Other summery things are coming into maturity as well. Crops such as flowers, basil and zucchini are keeping us hopping with precious little time to do much else. Once this initial plethora has evened out we’ll get into a more consistent rhythm of harvest, cultivation, weed control, irrigation and more planting.
Maintaining a diverse local food culture has been a long term goal of ours in the farming community.  We are always looking for new crops to grow and experiment with year after year. In addition to that, a lot of what we do, instead of just the hard work of growing food, goes into keeping markets open and strong. It also goes beyond just maintaining, it also includes laying the groundwork for a longer term infrastructure. Shopping at a local farmers market or buying into a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share is still a relatively small part of the overall food system in our community; even though we may have a big head start over other communities. There’s still room for it to grow and change and become more varied in what is available, affordable and consistent. Thanks to all who share our common concerns and goals!… Read the rest

June 12, 2018

Harvest time is starting to gather steam as temperatures are really starting to warm up.  We are harvesting pallet loads of cilantro, fennel, radicchio, dill, lettuce, spinach and dandelion greens for our wholesale accounts with an even more diverse list of crops for our local retail and wholesale accounts. We are happy to see things finally warming up to the point where we are on the cusp of summertime abundance. It’s hard to believe we are less than 2 weeks away from the summer solstice!
We have what is likely our full crew both in the field and at the markets. The larger labor issues facing agriculture have become obvious to us.  We simply aren’t getting any new and qualified field workers coming by looking for work. By qualified, I mean reliable, capable and skilled farm workers; people who really know the work and have the skills to make the whole process work smoothly and efficiently. So, we are doing our best to hang on to the people we have and make the workplace satisfying, interesting and most of all worth it for them. We wish we could be even more productive but this is the limiting factor we face right now. Regardless, we are staying true to our principals and standards and thank everyone for supporting us while we do so.
It is hard not to be concerned these days. I am not going to sugarcoat the realities facing the future of food. It is something that is invisible to most because of our dependence on supermarkets to supply us with an abundance of everything at any time of the year. We may not be noticing it but California’s fresh food production, as we’ve known it, is in a slow motion collapse and moving elsewhere. There aren’t enough people and there isn’t the financial viability to keep it going without some kind of reset.
The vast majority of people have over the last 100 years, disconnected from our agricultural roots.  This is a choice made, whether consciously or unconsciously, as a result of technology moving us towards convenience and alternate priorities.… Read the rest

May 29, 2018

Turning the corner from spring into summer has been a slow dance this year.  Here we are after Memorial Day weekend and I can honestly say it’s the coolest May I can remember.  I’d say most warm weather crops are a good 3-4 weeks behind schedule due to the cool daytime temperatures here on the Central Coast.  The cooler temperatures have kept the soil temperatures cooler as well, which is what really counts. Not to fret though, our warm weather crops will come into maturity and you will see summer squash, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, peppers, basil and much more in your CSA boxes and at the farmers markets!
A lot of farmers have resorted to using hoop houses to help get an early jump on the season but so far we have resisted due to the massive amounts of plastic involved. We are however starting more things in the greenhouse for transplanting, rather than direct seeding in the field, than we have in done in previous years.
A 25′ X 50′ greenhouse can hold 6 to 8 acres worth of transplants at a time. It’s a very efficient use of covered space when you need an early jump on the season. It also gives farmers the opportunity to still have a crop growing in the ground when the next successive crop has a 4-6 week head start. It’s not all gloomy though as the cool weather crops are doing really well.  For us this is our bread and butter, as our cool coastal growing niche stands out when the mercury soars further inland.

It looks like we are going to have an apricot crop as they are still hanging in and hanging on. No sign of the tree squirrels getting at them like we have seen in the past.
Even though there are still pockets of green grass up on the North Coast, the hills around here are showing hints of turning from green to a tanned blonde so we should start to see the deer becoming more and more interested in our irrigated field crops.  Not to worry though, pretty much all our fields are protected by fencing which, except on rare occasions, keeps the deer just looking in and onto our fields.

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May 15, 2018

With the growing season fully underway, the fields are starting to fill up. Our regular weekly plantings of this year’s crop mix are on schedule but the cool weather is delaying some early crops that are usually coming on strong by now. It’s been a pretty cool spring although that February heat wave was pretty bizarre. We continue to harvest cool loving crops like cilantro, lettuce, dandelions, dill, chard, kale, etc. The warm weather loving crops are longing for the warm days; the basil, tomato and summer squash are in a holding pattern until we get some heat. Winter squash plantings continue and we should have them all planted out by the end of May. Another thing that we need to get done by the end of May is to have all the citrus trees pruned back. Doing that early in the season enables the stimulated new growth to get plenty of strength and hardiness before the winter arrives. The lighter harvest load right now is giving us some time to take care of some of the peripheral chores, at least for the moment.

With reports of recent food related outbreaks of E.coli, we have had people asking us if it’s safe to eat romaine lettuce. The answer is yes, but it is a trust based decision for everyone. The best thing is if you actually know the farmer and can ask them questions. Ask yourself if  you know if it’s locally produced and from a farmer who has good growing and harvesting practices? This question really needs to be addressed because with some practices, both in the field and in processing facilities, there are inherent high risks.

Whole heads are much safer than lettuce that is cut and packaged into plastic bags. Other questions to ask are how many hands have actually touched the product, do employees wash their hands, etc.? Some of the cut salad product is actually cut and cored in the field. This particular outbreak has been traced to product out of Yuma, Arizona and processed in a factory where product gets cut, washed and mixed with items from many different sources, then packaged in plastic bags which tend to become little incubators for food-borne pathogens.… Read the rest

May 1, 2018

We are officially kicking off the 2018 Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) season today!  The most notable thing is that 2018 is not like 2017. After one of the driest Februarys on record we had we go again with another drought…but then things changed. 
Last year we had our tomatoes in the ground by March 1st. This year we are a month behind due to both the welcome March miracle rains and a much cooler April than usual. Not to worry though, we are planting like crazy and though things are growing slowly right now the warm-up will happen and the plants will take off.
The earliest crops that we planted back in the February dry spell are coming into production now. Cool weather crops like kale, cilantro, lettuce, chard, dandelion greens and arugula are showing up in theCSA boxes. Another thing we’ve noticed is that the stone fruits have a really good fruit set on them, especially the Blenheim  Apricots, which are notoriously undependable around here. Not trying to count our chickens before they hatch, but so far, so good. Now if we can just keep those pesky tree squirrels away
We have left some ground untilled for now. Those areas contain the remnants of  our winter/spring cover crops that have heavy blooms of Phacelia, which attract more beneficial insects during the cooler weather. The wild bumblebees also love it. The very effective but tiny pest predators are difficult to spot but are definitely there feeding on the nectar. The wild Ceanothus, another blue flowered bee plant, is really going off in the surrounding hills outside of the fields, so there is no shortage of “good” insect habitat.
Other crops planted and in varied growing stages are a nice mix of potatoes, an expanded rhubarb patch that will complement our strawberry patch (a new addition for us), tomatillos, squash, eight varieties of peppers, dill, parsley, basil, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, beets, sunflowers, gladiolas, a large patch of dahlias and many mixed greens.
We are looking forward to warmer days and the summer abundance, hope you are too!… Read the rest

February 27, 2018

It’s almost March or as we were saying in the first part of this month “Juneuary” as the temperatures more reflected a bit of summertime.  This is our new reality, I suppose. Some of the plum trees have already popped into bloom which is making us ramp up our pruning schedules. We also have completed our first transplant of the new growing season with some early kale, lettuce and parsley, while still allowing the cover crops on the rest of the land to do their thing a little longer. We did actually put in a strawberry patch of our own (first time in over 20 years), which we are very excited to use in our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. The greenhouses are filled to capacity with lettuces and other greens, while tomatoes, basil, peppers, squash and eggplant sowings are growing up nicely in time for transplant in March/April. Our cropping and marketing plans are being fine-tuned at this time.

Our efforts to provide fruit and vegetables to the local community go back to the beginning of the organic farming movement that began to take shape in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. At that time, the first certified farmers market in Santa Cruz County was organized and opened in 1979 at the Live Oak Elementary School at Capitola Rd. and 17th Ave. This provided a platform for direct marketing for my first crops. Shortly after that in 1981, four other people and I started growing on some abandoned fields on Ocean St. Extension, which had historically been called the “Italian Gardens”.

This proved to be an ideal spot to experiment with great soil, a great climate and very nearby markets for the food being produced. By 1988, I was the only farmer left on Ocean St. Extension and looking to scale up in order stay competitive with the new and larger operations that were popping up, or with the existing larger operations converting from conventional farming to organic. I found a partner and more land on the North Coast and we continued to grow until we had about 150 acres in four locations under cultivation.

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December 5, 2017

You’ve probably been wondering why you haven’t seen our eNewsletter in a few months. I am truly sorry that it’s been so long since the last edition. The last few months have been filled with so many things; things both close to home but also things in the greater world. I am not sure where to start because indeed sometimes just saying nothing works best. Listening to nature could hold some truth though. I’ve always felt there is wisdom in the silence of the Earth. It knows all and it doesn’t need us but we, for sure, do need IT.
Maybe we can start at the end, since this is the end of the year cycle and our last CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box of the season, a time when we can assess and look back and see what we have done and what we have learned, and where we are going. Trying to see where we are going through the fog can be confusing these days. After all, when deciphering what’s real or fake is now a daily requirement for us. What can we do to keep it real? Taking some quiet time doesn’t mean we haven’t wanted to communicate about the goings on in the fields and beyond.                                                                                                                                                      

The changing economic and ecologic landscape of agriculture here on the Central Coast has been nothing short of monumental. Change is essential and I accept it as a matter of course. Balancing all the variables that go into farming in a way that makes the end result a success is a challenge we have accepted. But acceptance of reality doesn’t mean complacency. We have and will continue to speak out about trends that are destructive and not based in reality. The ongoing shortage of labor is real and will likely continue so we have to compensate for that for sure. Since working harder is not a good option, it’s time to work smarter not harder. Trying harder to be smarter may be the 2018 motto. Developing a crop plan that meets the demands of our supporters is our priority now that we’re into mid-December.  We think we have a pretty good idea but there’s always a little guess work involved.… Read the rest