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Eco-Farm Tour 2013

I started off the 33rd Eco-Farm conference with a farm tour to 4 organic and sustainable farms around Pescadero in San Mateo County, CA.  This region next to the Pacific Ocean has cool, foggy summers, sunny springs and falls and mild wet winters conducive to growing a great range of crops suited to the climate and fertile coastal soils.

Our first stop was the home ranch of Jacobs Farm/Del Cabo. Larry Jacobs walked us through the home ranch and explained that it was like a family with many of the workers also living on the farm in bungalows. When the farm was under different owners they grew peas in the 1920’s, row crops in the 1930’s including beets, corn, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and artichokes.   In I980 the Jacobs bought the farm and started organic farming with a lot of skepticism from other farmers about growing organically.  They started growing culinary herbs and some vegetables for “food for us”, where everyone who works for the farm gets a box of vegetables once a week as a bonus for being part of the family.

Larry Jacobs with Amigo Bob

Jacobs Farm was a pioneer of growing fresh culinary herbs which grew great in the Mediterranean climate of the area and didn’t need much water. All the herbs are cut by hand with scissors or a knife.  They originally were able to satisfy the needs of the San Francisco Produce Market by packing their old red car(with a seat taken out) with 12 boxes of herbs. Now Jacobs Farm needs have grown so much that they lease land in Santa Cruz County and other areas of San Mateo County to grow over 30 varieties of herbs.

Row after row of rosemary at Jacobs Home Farm

Many herbs are grown in green houses in Watsonville and in Mexico during the winter under the Del Cabo label in order to satisfy the year round demand.  Jacobs partners with a large network of growers in Mexico to provide a number of warm weather crops such as cherry tomatoes, peppers, chilies, and squash in addition to their culinary herbs.  The 400 families that provide these commodities are part of the Del Cabo Cooperative, and Jacobs is proud to provide economic opportunities and a safe working environment for the growers.  Earl’s has been buying organic herbs from Jacobs for over 15 years.

Harley Goat Farm Cheese Shop

Our second stop was the Harley Goat Farm, a restored dairy farm built in 1910.  Dee Harley has been running the farm for 19 years and their primary mission is to provide food and an experience that is truly sustainable and local for the community and visitors.

Alpine goats at Harley Goat Farm

 

They have about 200 alpine goats and make 4 varieties of cheese including fromage blanc, chevre, feta and ricotta cheese.   All the cheese is made in small batches and the flavor changes throughout the year depending on what the goats eat.  Spring cheese is said to be the best with the “freshness bursting through”.  Harley farm also has farm dinners in a renovated barn.  Check their website for events on the farm.

Next we visited Leftcoast Grassfed/Tom Kat Ranch.  Leftcoast beef is grass-fed using rotational grazing practices to avoid any overgrazing.  This practice has brought back native grasses, helped reduce erosion and decreased their carbon footprint.  They never use antibiotics or hormones and the animals have met and surpassed all of the requirements for certification for the American Grass-fed Association, the Food Alliance, and Animal Welfare Approved.  They want their cows to be happy cows!

Tom Kat also has an educational foundation. They go into local schools and help plan lunch programs and educate the kids about fitness, nutrition, sustainable agriculture and life on the ranch.

We took a break for lunch and went back to our starting point at the Jacobs Farmstand which is also a huge barn. It had started pouring rain but we all waited in lane for the delicious lunch cooked by Jim Denevan from Outstanding In The Field farm dinners. Beef and potato soup, butternut squash soup, salad with chevre cheese from Harley Farms and beets, focaccia bread, apple pie and apple cider.

Our last certified organic farm of the day was Fifth Crow Farm in Pescadero, CA run by Teresa Kurtak, Mike Irving and John Vars.  They lease 20 acres of land and over 70% of it is used for growing vegetables such as beets, brassicas, strawberries, and lots of leafy greens.  They also have a 1.5 acre 24-variety apple orchard, and a pastured egg operation consisting of 2 flocks of 350+ beautiful ladies- all heritage breeds.

Teresa Kurtak from Fifth Crow Farm speaking to the Eco Farm Tour group

Fifth Crow’s goal is to diversify crops, utilize marketing outlets to promote their farm and to be stewards of the land.  They sell at farmers markets, to restaurants and have a CSA that also includes local grass-fed beef and pork from Markegard Family and local honey from City Bees.

www.fifthcrow.com

Teresa is very passionate about having people understand the value of food. What does labor cost plus offering a livable wage?  It is important for a farmer to charge what they need to so that they don’t undervalue themselves.  “We can’t have a viable food system if we don’t pay for it” says Teresa.  The big question everyone wanted to know was “why do you do it?” Teresa felt like farming matters to her. It is challenging, stimulating and emotionally engaging.  She loves having her own business and feels pleasure in making something.

Mike felt that farming was real and important to society. He is proud of what he does and feels like he is taking care of the earth. He doesn’t like sitting down and working and farming is “the perfect job for him”.

It was another great Eco-Farm tour! Click here to view all the pictures from the farm tour and a video from Fifth Crow Farm on Earl’s Organic Facebook Event Tab. Like our Facebook page and keep up on events, our growers and news in the organic world.

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