News & Photos

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

New Downtown Farmers Market Hours Beginning November 8, 2017

The Downtown Santa Cruz Farmers’ Market changes it’s closing time once Daylight Savings Time hits in the fall each year. Beginning Wednesday, November 8th the Downtown Santa Cruz Farmers’ Market operating hours will change to 1pm-5pm (in the past it has been 1:30-5:30).

Spring/summer hours for 2018, which begin on April 4th, will run 1pm-6pm.

We hope you are able to enjoy these earlier hours at the market.… Read the rest

August 23, 2017

The days are getting noticeably shorter. It’s actually kind of dark when our field crew starts at 6 a.m. After their 15 minute stretching routine it gets a little lighter but that should diminish further and we will soon have to delay their morning start time.
The harvest list is growing to include eggplant, multi-colored bell and hot peppers, Gala, McIntosh and Rubenstar apples. We are looking forward to the change in the late summer weather which usually means a switch from foggy to crisp clear mornings. 
September is generally dry and cooler but these last few days of August have brought some very moist but warm days which some of us growers call “mildew weather” due to increased instances of downy mildew and other molds which thrive in all day fog. 
Basil has been a challenge for us lately with the mildew hitting and missing patches depending on where the plants are located. As of yet there are no downy mildew resistant Italian basil varieties out there, though the lemon basil seems to fair pretty well so we are happy about that.
Flower power is in force in the form of dahlias and honestly it’s hard to keep up with them.  Their production is steady and they need picking 2 to 3 times a week to keep the plants going.
It’s tough, what with all the other crops also maxxing out. Sleep?  What is that?  Ha ha…
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August 2, 2017

The August day length is still pretty long but we are noticing the slight delay of daybreak in the early morning hours. There’s now darkness when getting ready to go out to work. Even though the days are getting shorter, the warmest days are still yet to come.
Fruit, roots, flowers and leaves are coming in fast and furious. We are now dealing with a very wide range of crops that are growing, which leaves little time to even think of other things on the list. Our lineup this next week will include, Poblano peppers, some extremely hot Cayenne peppers, some early apple varieties and the first potatoes which have been patiently waiting their turn to be dug up from the ground. 
It’s a real chore just managing the time to get to all the things that are coming on in the days, weeks and months ahead. We typically harvest leafy crops early in the morning with the hardier items later towards midday. The crop harvest schedule varies during the summer weeks depending on our orders. We aim to finish before 1 or 2 pm but sometimes heavy harvest schedules can span most of the day. When that happens it leaves less time for weeding, irrigating and keeping up on crop thinning and the thousand other things that need to get done on the farm. 
To the happy amusement of our long standing field crew, we are having some new eager young market employees putting time in the field, which is good to see, as every little bit helps. 
Happy August!
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July 19, 2017

Alternating hot and cool periods the last few weeks are allowing the full spectrum of our wide range of crops to do their thing. We are already pretty heavy into tomato season with all the dry farmed cherry tomatoes, Early Girls and heirlooms coming on. Word has it that further inland it has been so hot with temperatures into triple digits regularly that the blossoms have been falling off leading to a reduced fruit set for the various tomato crops.  Another reason to be thankful for being on the Central Coast. 
The pepper crops are promising to be heavy with lots of fruit setting in the above 50 degree nights. Meanwhile, lettuces, chicories, Cole crops, cilantro and other greens are doing great! We are even seeing some ripe plums, apricots and early apples too!
I have been thinking a lot about all the new developments effecting smaller local farmers. There is a large and growing presence of home delivery options from retailers, food kit companies and with the recent purchase of Whole Foods by Amazon, the potential for people to shop from their mobile phones without ever seeing what they are buying in person. I have my own opinions about this kind of shopping, but I do think there is value in knowing where it is coming from and seeing what you are buying. Convenience also does have its’ costs.  The more direct and efficiently food travels to the consumers, the more sustainable it is both energy-wise and financially for the growers. 
Another added pressure starting to become a reality is marijuana. Recreational and medical marijuana laws are now allowing it’s cultivation to be a much more common practice on the Central Coast. There are starting to be some unintended ramifications for farms growing food, flowers and fiber. The main impacts are putting pressure on land lease prices and impacting the already tight farm labor issues. Smaller farms that lease land in somewhat isolated areas are most at risk for negative impacts from this. There have also been some larger greenhouse operations that previously grew flowers, now converted over to marijuana with some rather ominous impacts on their neighbors, such as having armed guards now patrolling properties and reduced farm road access becoming an issue.
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