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La Granjita Organica Farm Tour

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On the morning of August 25th, a small group from Earl’s Organic headed out to San Benito County, into Hollister for a visit to La Granjita Organica! Translated to English it means, “The Little Organic Farm”.

This visit starts with an outline of our partners’ background: La Granjita is a small farm run by couple Victor Cortez and Veronica Ceja, from Michoacan, Mexico consisting of 2.5 acres, owned by Victor’s brother-in-law in Hollister, CA. Victor has a lengthy thread of experience in the agriculture industry prior to starting on his own partnership with his wife. Their origin in the farming industry together started in the Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association (ALBA) in Salinas, CA, where they were taught to farm organically, sell, and structure themselves to become a sustainable grower, in 2013. After a quick start of their determined relationship with our Purchasing Director, Robert Lichtenberg, Victor and Veronica became an exclusive partner of Earl’s Organic in 2017. Their first land to Earl’s Organic was actually a bit rocky due to tomatoes riddled with cracks, which in turn we could not sell. Victor apologetically expressed his concerns and thankfully after a second chance, the hard-earned trust came to blossom between Robert and La Granjita. La Granjita’s selection started with cherry tomatoes and hot peppers (jalapeños, serrano, poblanos and Anaheim peppers) then ignited a forward-goal spark and motivated the couple to try more options. Victor implemented his creative innovation and excitement in his new land, into a diverse layout. Through much trial and error, the fruits of La Granjita led to additional items: their watermelon gherkins in 100% recyclable packaging (which make a lovely agua fresca!) and upcoming heirloom tomatoes we have seen in our warehouse this season. They are now looking forward to implementing new straight-pack tomato varieties and reinforcing their current crops, as they have a wonderful, organized display in their cases that come to us, for you! As Robert states, “A musician knows when they hear someone play, how good they are. With my farming background, opening a box of produce tells me how good a grower is”.

Robert Lichtenberg and Victor Cortez La Granjita Organica

On the morning of the 25th, we were welcomed to a path of beautiful, stalky heirloom corn on our left-hand side, on our drive to meet up with Victor and Veronica at their packing area with refreshing shade from the sunny weather.  After Robert, Ethan, Jarod, Vianney and I gathered, Victor and Veronica warmly welcomed us with smiles and waves. After a quick catch up with Robert and the couple, we proceeded to walk through their patch of land filled with green cherry tomatoes, shishitos, bell peppers, varietal hot peppers, watermelon gherkins, cape gooseberries and green chickpeas. The samples we sifted through with Veronica and Victor were delicate and gave you a swirl of flavor that beautifully portrayed the effort the family incorporated into their land. Our initial steps were received with the golden cape gooseberries! Each bite from a gooseberry popped in your mouth like a sweet/savory jelly bomb. Veronica stayed behind with Vianney and I and gave us some small husk cherries that look like a smaller version of a tomatillo, which yielded a burst of sweet, meaty flavor.  Skipping forward, we eventually caught up to Robert, Victor and the rest of the group to the end of the row full of chilies, where we munched on some vine ripe red shishitos. Those were juicy, with a smoky, earthy aftertaste, but their sweetness being the main attribute. They were almost double the size of the shishitos we see in the warehouse. We started our walk back to the beginning by passing by some green chickpeas! The taste was watery and fresh, imagine being able to taste the color light green? We had never tasted chickpeas in their initial stages. A result of their experimentations with soil and weather management, the family keeps these for personal use.

Cape Gooseberries

We then picked at the famous and refreshing watermelon gherkins. They are super tiny and close to the ground, if we would have kept moving forward, I wouldn’t have spotted them! The texture of a mini cucumber gave us the cooling we needed under the sun. Meanwhile, our Earl’s group kept our ears perked for what Victor had to say on explaining the situation going on in the field. He mentioned the process of pruning for his cherry tomatoes, giving them a chance to grow without the fungus and eliminating a possibility of becoming infected with plague, although it’s a time-consuming task. Ethan also brought up thoughtful questions about how the field is measured and spread out, and how funnily enough, our perspective plays with how we perceive things in front of us. Between the rows of tomatoes and chiles, they are spread out more than what they appear, since they have added volume from soil and protection. The couple learned how to manage aspects of their farm through the experiences they have hustled through, from that they learned how to run the production of the crops.

They are looking to add tomatillos, habaneros and cherry bombs to their mix to produce a bigger signature crop, with Robert as their asset to bring them to their envisioned goal. As Victor and Veronica work their way through testing the waters in their new land, they like to raise crops they can personally use, such as the heirloom corn (which in Mexico we use for our posole recipes, in English they are called Hominy) and the garbanzos, or what doesn’t make it to our warehouse. We each got our own ear of roasted corn to snack on while we browsed the packing area with shade to wait for Victor. The couple treated us to a lovely carne asada (barbeque in English) and we continued to listen to Victor’s origin in the farming industry and how Veronica was inspired to work in the farm after her career as a hairdresser.

Their teamwork and partnership with Earl’s have enabled them to pay off their bank loans, after giving up their previous land, closer to Salinas. As they expressed their gratitude for our visit when we headed out for the day, we appreciated the amount of passion and attention to detail our partners bring from their land to us, to ultimately our customers who bring the fruits of their labor to their home.  

Top Row: Marilyn, Jarod, Robert and Veronica. Bottom Row: Ethan and Victor

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