A Day At Las Hermanas Farm
June 11, 2016
Written by Ethan Abendroth, National Sales Manager for Earl’s Organic Produce
It was a delightful early summer / late spring day with temperatures in the high 60’s to low 70’s. A slight breeze flitted across La Hermanas’ main 60 acre leased parcel in Hollister, CA as stunt pilots from the local airfield practiced barrel rolls and loop-d-loop over the landscape. The sun shone like only it can across the fertile Salinas valley with high wispy clouds traveling across the sky (or are those vapor trails? Depends on who you ask). In attendance was a nice cross section of Earl’s Organic. (Earl, myself, Patrick from accounting, Jessica and Shane from QI-IC and Fernando from receiving)
Gloria, one of the five sisters and the one in charge of sales first lead us through the brassica and greens field. This 60 acre block is in active rotation. Sub sections of the lot were in various states of production, pre-production and fallow. It was very interesting to see rotation in action. Crop rotation includes cover crops and alternate crop planting in a specific plot. The brassica and greens field had cauliflower, cabbage, cilantro, green and lacinato kales, green, red and rainbow chards, snap and English peas as an experiment and for good measure a few beets. While Las Hermanas does experiment with shoulder crops such as the peas (early to late summer if they take) they are much more comfortable growing what they can do best.
Along the tour we came across Margarito and Jesus, Gloria’s father and brother. Margarito came to the dream of leaving his offspring a legacy and thus Las Hermanas was born. Margarito is in charge of all the cultivation and growing of the crops while Jesus is the irrigation guru on the farm. A very young man at 43 Margarito and Laura his wife have 6 children ranging from 16 to 24. The dream is alive in three of the sisters and Jesus as they all participate in the running of a productive and healthy food system. Jesus just graduated high school and was side by side with his father finishing direct seeding a strip of prepared land. Both of the men had smiles on their faces as pleasantries and salutations were exchanged.
After we parted and regrouped at Las Hermanas’ secondary 20 acre plot just a couple of miles down the road. Here the family has in the ground 9 different varieties of heirloom tomatoes, blue lake, purple and yellow wax beans, zucchini, straightneck and crookneck summer squash. The tomato plants were bearing green immature fruit and a bounty of flowers just waiting their turn to produce. Also in the ground was a private stock of some mysterious hot drying pepper for the family’s personal consumption.
Las Hermanas is truly a family affair employing only 8 around the year employees. Whether it be the youngest still in high school without a driver’s license running the tractor through the rows to mom running the packing crews, Las Hermanas is creating some of the finest and prettiest cases of produce to be found in the marketplace.
Sitting at lunch and enjoying a nice meal together in Gilroy, it was very clear this family is building, living and experiencing the organic produce dream. Working the land and bringing sustenance to themselves and the community around them. Future plans involve opening up a family restaurant and as Gloria says “We’ll see – farming is a lot of work – who knows?” Read aboutEarl’s exclusive partnership with Las Hermanas.
Photo Credits: Jessica Cole, QA/IC at Earl’s Organic Produce