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Arroyo Grande Berry Farm

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Maria Iniquez never imagined she would change her career from cosmetologist to farmer. Her brother Jose was always the farmer of the family with a dream of transitioning his strawberry farm to organic. Maria fell into farming when Jose unexpectedly passed away in 2015. She wanted to bring her brothers dream to fruition and to honor his memory and be close to him.

In 2016 Maria took over Arroyo Grande Farm with no experience farming and no one to teach her.  She started with 25 acres and a few years ago the owners sold some of the land, leaving her with 10 acres. The farm is located in Arroyo Grande, about 20 minutes south of San Luis Obispo. Situated on a mesa overlooking the ocean, the sand dunes are visible in the distance. The ocean provides a lot of the cool early morning breezes and the daytime temperature remains a constant 65-70 degrees year round. Never too hot or too cold, this unique microclimate “helps contribute to the flavor and growth of the plants,” said Maria. A quick drive 20 minutes away and the weather becomes much cooler or warmer.

“The first year taking on the farm there was a lot of trial and error growing strawberries. I put in hoop houses when I took over the land to help protect the strawberries from birds as well as prevent the berries from becoming too cold in the evening,” said Maria. 

Maria started with strawberries and now grows raspberries, snap peas, green beans, zucchini and fava beans are the newest addition to the farm this year. She rotates the crops throughout the year so there is always something growing. Strawberries are rotated with green beans and raspberries are rotated with zucchini.  Having a diverse crop rotation improves soil health, increases nutrients for the crops and helps to reduces erosion.

The best way to keep away the pests is to “keep the plants clean of weeds. We have hoops and a tractor doesn’t fit between the plants. We use pickers that pull the weeds by hand between the plants and on the road. It is very expensive to do by hand, “said Maria.

Arroyo Grande strawberries and raspberries are available on the shoulders of the season. Maria learned early on it is hard to compete on price with larger berry growers during the summer months. Arroyo Grande strawberries can be enjoyed as early as December through April/May and raspberries come on in late April/early May and then again in August.

When asked what she wanted her customers to know, Maria said that she “calls Arroyo Grande “my brother’s ranch”.  My brother was a people person and he would be so happy. The strawberries were his dream. He would invite me to stay and watch the beautiful sunsets and sunrises from the ranch.”

Arroyo Grande is now harvesting sweet strawberries and we can look forward to fava beans in a few weeks and snap peas in late April/early May.


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