Here’s our full team in all of our glory after an insanely educational tour of John Given’s Santa Rosa Road farm, Led by Matthew Givens (John’s son, 2nd from right.). This crew is awesome and we are so thankful to get to work with these epic people and to bring you all the best food grown in our fine land.
Without further ado, let us share where we went and what we learned as we worked our way thru 4 of our favorite local farms.
Stop 1. Frecker Farms
Alex Frecker has been farming for 5 years, and is ambitious as all heck. He has grown from 5 acres and no farmer’s markets, to 38 acres and at least 12 markets a week. Needless to say he works and works hard. He is a family friend of the Givens, and spent 5 years working underneath John and Matthew in their Goleta farms and has adopted a huge amount of their practices to what he is doing.
As we have all seen this spring and summer, it has been cool and wet. It even rained, legitimately in May. This spells problems for warm, loving summer crops, and Alex has been having a bit of a shocker summer season at his Carpinteria farm. While his strawberries, carrots, and lettuces are flourishing and yielding beautifully, he is dealing with a horrible tomato blight that has caused him to lose 80% or more of his yields. Alex has been farming long enough to know that this is just the name of the game. Things will change and this is why we all plant a large diversity of crops. When one thing is suffering through a natural cycle, something else is flourishing.
Stop 2. Shepherd Farms at Folded Hills
After we left Alex, we drove up the 101 to Nojoqui park road and the farm stead at Folded Hills. My father is Folded Hills’ resident farmer, and his fields can be found in and around the property. If a veggie is growing at Folded Hills, it is my dad and his foreman Maxamino that are behind it. It is amazing the different climate between Carpinteria and Nojoqui. As we crossed over the Gaviota pass, the temperature immediately went from the mid-sixties to the mid-eighties in what seemed like a mile.
Needless, to say, my father’s tomatoes don’t have blight, and his summer crops are killing it. A little dry heat goes a long way for warm season crops like tomatoes, melons, cucumbers, squash, and the like. This is where the Folded Hills farm really shines: in the summer time when it is hot and dry. Come winter, it’s a different story, and we all wish my father was back farming in Carpinteria where it’s never too hot and never too cold.
Anyways, we didn’t get very many pictures while we were picnicking, playing with the animals, and poking our heads around the new winery that the Busch family was just about to open.
Can you see my cutie dad in this pic?
Stop 3. John Givens
It’s taken us a long time to crack the John Givens code. John’s a tough dude to get to know, but Jason has always had a huge farmer crush on his skill in the fields and has made it a point to win some points with the man. He even rushed over to help him seed his hillside after the fires and before the rains last year just to show the dude some support and hopefully glean some knowledge.
So, when John set us up for a tour of his Santa Rosa Rd. property with his son Matthew, Jason was pumped. John and Matthew are the true organic farming scientists in this area. They are insanely observant, detail oriented, and really take great pride in what they do. And what they do is grow really good vegetables.
And they do it in a real way. They build beautiful compost, cover crop aggressively, and truly steward their land for their next generation.
Stop 4. Sunrise Organic Farm
Our final stop, was our best stop. Not because of the farming practices. But because of the story of agricultural struggle, family, and persistence that the farming father and son duo of Chuy and Jesus Salas have undertaken. These guys are 4 years into their solo farming journey and have big dreams. Since leaving the fold from John Givens, where Jesus has been working for over 35 years, they have grown from 10 acres to over 100 acres, and have had to wrestle with all of the difficulties that come with big dreams and big farms.
Jason has a huge amount of respect for these guys, and baited Jesus into a heart warming motivational speech that left our team feeling empowered and motivated to take on their own big dreams. Without getting too long winded here, the core of Jesus’ message was, “without a dream, a big dream, what do you have in your life? What gets you out of bed every morning in the dark, what keeps you working until it’s dark everyday. You will run into obstacles. They will be everywhere sometimes, and it will seem like you can’t continue, but there is always a way around them. Have faith, and look for the path. You will find it”.
With that message, 100 acres of beautiful farm land, and 35 years under the tutelage of our area’s organic master, we are confident that these guys will adapt and overcome the immense issues that medium scale organic farms are facing, with labor shortage and intense competition from foreign, low-wage paying Mexican farms.
We can’t wait for the day that Sunrise Organic Farms is supplying Whole Foods across the country. Until then, we will continue to back them and play a small role in seeing them achieve their dreams.