Aspiring farmers and farm workers can enroll in a 9 month program with ALBA (Agriculture and Land Based Training Association) to teach them about farm management and organic crop production practices. The program covers the business side of having their own farm and provides practical on hands training with the ultimate goal of growing and selling their own crops. ALBA has two farms in Monterey County on the Central Coast of California. The home ranch and Rural Development Center classroom is in Salinas and the 2nd farm is located in Los Lomas near Watsonville. The program focuses on small farm management, organic farming and sustainable practices. The fee for the program is based on a sliding scale according to income. ALBA receives funding from public and private sources which enables low income applicants to have access to the program.
The first 6 months of the program are mostly in the classroom learning about farm operations and developing a business plan that includes marketing, crop planning, business management, soil and irrigation planning, pest, disease and weed management and profit and loss projection. The last few months of the program are spent on the farm getting hands on practice planting, irrigating, weeding, managing pests, harvesting, packing and taking crops to different markets.
After completing the course the graduates can apply to lease a parcel of land, for up to 5 years, to grow their own crops. They are able to sell their produce however they like but typically they sell it to ALBA. ALBA purchases fresh organic produce from ALBA farmers and regional farmers and distributes to wholesalers, retailers and the food service industry.
The ALBA Farmers come from all walks of life. Previous careers include working in a bakery, harvesting crops in the field, owning a restaurant and attending college just to name a few. One of their current stewards is putting himself through Fresno State by farming on ALBA Land and will graduate in May with a BS in Crop Science. Another young man completed his AA at Hartnell College in Salinas, CA while farming part-time on ALBA Land. Karen Marie Feliz, General Manager for ALBA says “There are too many success stories to list. The sheer fact that this program has been instrumental in improving the quality of life for so many families is very humbling. We have several women farmers too who are equally as strong with awesome farming skills.”
Earl’s is proud to be partnering with ALBA and offering their sweet and juicy strawberries. ALBA farmers started harvesting almost a month early this year because of the unseasonably warm weather. Strawberry season on the Central Coast typically kicks off around mid-March and is steady through September and October. Strawberries thrive in the cooler weather on the Central Coast and if the rain holds off we could get strawberries into November.
Berries are very weather dependent and the ALBA farmers live and die by their weather apps and news to manage their crops, minimize their losses and know when they need to go to market. If a heavy rain is in the forecast they will pick a little early even if that means picking a berry with a little white shoulder. Too much water causes spots to form on the berries which turns to decay. A cold spell can also slow down the crop. The season and size of the crop can vary each year based on the weather.
Don’t miss out on ALBA’s sweet, juicy and local strawberries this season!
Available at Earl’s Organic in a 12×8.8oz pack.