Author: Guillermo. Seeds of Change sent me an invite recently for a "try some of our good stuff" event in the bay area. I have a mile high pile of way overdue things to do, but how could I say no to this perfect excuse to hit the road on the trusty beemer?
Phil Foster, the owner of Pinnacle Organic, gracefully hosted the Seeds of Change event at his farm. Phil owns 250 beautiful acres of prime farmland in the San Benito County. Riding the bike through the crisp morning air, cutting through the sweet smell of garlic, celery, and onions in the fields, the mind wanders, and I could not help but think of the "San Benito", which is also the name of the garb that the Inquisition used to force poor condemned souls to wear on their way to the bonfire. This Saint Benito must have been quite a character, to get both this very nice farmland and such a "happy" garment named after him. When I die, I'd rather have some lingerie named after me instead.
I arrived at the farm a full hour before the rest of the group, which gave me a good head start to get to know farmer Phil. We drove around on his pickup truck while we talked about his operation. Our conversation was often interrupted by quick exchanges with his crew on a walkie-talkie.
The thing that struck me the most about the farm was... The compost!! Pinnacle, has a huge compost making operation (see the photos), which produces 2000 tons per year of the stuff, which gets all tilled into the land. The soil at Pinnacle is a full 6% organic matter, which is pretty high for these area. This is achieved through composting and cover-cropping.
The huge mound of greens from the veggie "rejects" is mixed with manure from neighboring farms, wood chips from landscaping crews, lawn clippings from the south bay, straw, and is then churned into long rows of fermenting compost that make this soil some of the best in the region.
One new thing I learned today is that onions are sometimes dried on the field stuffed into burlap sacks after harvest. It was quite interesting and a very pretty sight.
At about 10 am the Seeds of Change group of about 20 people arrived from San Francisco. The group consisted of mostly chefs from the bay area, and a couple of people involved in the sustainable ag movement. We all congregated around a table and introduced ourselves, then heard a great intro to Seeds of Change - the way they are working with small farms around the country, bringing back to market a slew of almost-forgotten varieties. Following the introduction, we got ourselves busy sampling a wide assortment of melons.
Seeds of Change started doing business back in 1989 in New Mexico, and is now the top seller of organic seeds in the country. They sell seed for about 700 varieties of vegetables, and are constantly prospecting for new candidates for their product line. Erica Renaud and Micaela Colley explained how the world has lost about 30,000 varieties in the last 100 years, and how another veggie goes extinct about every 6 hours.
After Hollister, the S.O.C. crew and guests headed to Palo Alto for lunch at Jesse Cool's home. Jesse owns the very renowned Flea Street Café in Palo Alto. It would have been a treat to meet her and try her fare, but I had to rush back to Santa Cruz and man the shop. Next time?