Posts tagged farm tour
Posts tagged farm tour
As part of CUESA’s Growing Inspiration Farm Tour, the afternoon found us at Swanton Berry Farm. The swift change in climate from Hollister’s heat to the cold wind of Santa Cruz county was noticeable, particularly for the strawberries that grew on earth at Catalan Family Farms but were engulfed in plastic to retain heat at Swanton.
To begin with, we were served a scrumptious salad made of romaine lettuce with pinto beans, grilled squash, corn, onion and poblano chile with tomatillo creme fraiche dressing, prepared by the CUESA market chef Sarah Henkin. As the salad was being mixed, I grew more and more excited. It looked absolutely delicious and I was not let down. I still surprise myself when I notice myself looking forward to vegetables, but it’s the truth. The salad was accompanied by a cauliflower soup made of Swanton produce and a sinful but utterly tasty strawberry shortcake. Mhh mhh mhh!
With our bellies filled to the brim with organic delights, we began receiving an intro to Swanton. The farm has a fascinating history proving the conventional wisdom that you can’t grow strawberries both organically and in a commercially-viable way wrong. Thank you for paving the road for the abundant organic berries we get to eat now! What a huge, historic achievement, particularly because strawberries are part of the infamous dirty dozen.
Faced with the difficulty of limited access to water on the California central coast, the farm continues to grow berries on self-sustaining land with reservoirs, a little waterfall, etc. We toured different plots including canopies of cane fruit such as blackberries, olallieberries, and loganberries, as well as kiwi trees, broccoli, cauliflower and mustard seed, and again were granted an inside look into the challenges of and lessons learned in organic farming. Who knew there were people an hour from San Francisco losing sleep over protecting their livelihood from wild pigs?
A few interesting take-aways from the afternoon:
If you’re in the area, you should check out Swanton Berry Farm and indulge in some u-pick action. This farm deserves special recognition for offering their employees a merit-based retirement plan option and addressing some of the physical hardship of manual labor, which has resulted in them retaining employees for 30+ years instead of the regular 4-5 year turn-over after which most individuals switch from farm work into a different industry like serving at a restaurant or washing cars. Swanton Berry Farm makes it a goal to humanize this very tough business and to make the faming business sustainable not only for the environment, but for the individuals choosing this line of work.
Kudos, and thank you for the tour!
In many ways, I am out of touch with where my food comes from. I can admit that I used to prefer meat in a shape completely unrelated to its natural form (think nuggets or patties instead of bone-in meat) and only touched vegetables with a sweet undertone or the faintest of flavors. Iceberg lettuce and I, to the horror of my holistic medicine Dr. mother, used to be real tight. Though now I make a substantial effort to eat locally, non-packaged foods, and am eating less meat instead of only that which doesn’t tell the story of its origin, I have always been a city mouse and have never had any connection to farming. In recent months, as I’ve found myself drawn more and more to farmers markets, organic foods and have even (gasp!) started to cook, though, I’ve become entirely fascinated with how we can individually and at large reconnect with our food, our roots and our health.
When I stumbled upon a tweet about CUESA’s Growing Inspiration Farm Tour, I signed up immediately. After much excitement on my part in weeks leading up to the event, we arrived at Catalan Family Farm on Sunday morning. The Catalan family welcomed us to a degree almost unheard of, allowing us to prance through their fields as they taught us the ins and outs of their farming practices in Hollister. In between trying lemon cucumbers in total disbelief (“What is that? What? Cucumber? No - it couldn’t be!”), eating a leaf of dandelion green straight from plant to hand to mouth (arugula spicyness x10) and feasting on the most vibrant, colorful spread of freshly picked, sliced and diced watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries, tomatoes, salad, grilled corn, a variety of agua fresca, chips and homemade tomatillo salsa (another first!), I picked up so many different tidbits of information about farming, organic foods and general attitudes about eating and working. Without further ado, here are a few of the points that I wanted to share:
Catalan Farm & Family
Of course, I have several pages of notes from this tour, but I’ll cut it short for now.
Above all, this fascinating farm tour allowed me to see things I had never seen before. I didn’t know how a pepper plant looked or that a cold Northern California summer would do wonders for strawberries but leave tomatoes green. Granted, I was one of very few individuals in their 20s or 30s that had joined the tour. I think that’s precisely the problem. Yes, my mother would surely know these things, but I had never seen them with my own eyes. Have you? Has your child? I think it’s about time.
My extensive thanks go out to the Catalan Family Farm for welcoming the tour group with open arms, providing the freshest produce I have ever eaten, and sharing their wisdom with us. I cannot say enough positive things about this experience. They enabled me to learn with my ears, hands and tongue. “Try it!” was the response to every question about their produce. Hospitality at its absolute best.