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Simon

Simon’s August Produce Outlook

August bestows upon us the most bountiful local produce of the year, since all of the hot weather crops start producing.  We spend nine months of the season with limited options for tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers, melons, and grapes…then all of a sudden, multiple varieties of each arrive in our produce department!

Fruit

Local Apples have started to arrive, and as always the first apple of the season is the Gravenstein.  First planted in Sonoma in 1811 by Russian Trappers, this is a versatile apple that is wonderful for eating fresh, reducing into a sauce or baking into apple pie. With crisp texture and a sweet and tart juice, they should be eaten within 3 weeks of harvest or risk losing their crisp texture and becoming soft (at which point they become a mean juice apple!) Devoto Gardens in Sebastopol grows over 50 varieties of heirloom apples and Stan has delivered his first batch of Gravenstein and Pink Pearl apples. Devoto will be harvesting new varieties and delivering to our door through November. Another one of our favorite apple growers, Hidden Star Orchard located in the foothills of the Sierras, just started harvesting their Gala apples, with Fujis to follow. We’ll have their extra crispy apples through the New Year.

Stone Fruit is still coming from Blossom Bluff and Balakian Farm, but the selection from these Central Valley growers will wind down by the end of the month. Frog Hollow in Brentwood will continue to harvest tree-ripe yellow peaches and nectarines for the rest of the month, and just started bringing us their scrumptious Dapple Dandy Pluots! We’re patiently waiting for our first delivery of peaches from Dry Creek Valley Orchard in Healdsburg.  This small family farm is one of the only organic stone fruit growers north of the city that treats us to its fruit.

Melon, Melons and Mo Melons: they rely on hot weather more than any crop. Full Belly Farm has become our main melon grower over the past few seasons and really knows how to harvest them when the sugars are at their peak.  Look for the unique green fleshed Haogen and yellow fleshed Yellow Doll Watermelon. The Piel de Sapo (that’s “skin of the frog” in Italian!), another specialty variety we offer, has an amazingly sweet and crisp yellow flesh.

The second rounds of figs are ripening on the trees, and we’ve received our first delivery of Black Mission figs from Capay Farm. Everyone can’t wait for them to start harvesting their delicious Candy Stripe figs with their jam-like flesh.

Dry farmed early girls are at their sweet peak

Veggies

We are very lucky to have so many amazing tomato growers in the Bay Area!   Most of our favorite growers, such as Happy Boy, Full Belly and Mariquita Farm, are going to be knee deep in heirloom and cherry tomatoes for the entire month of August.  One of the really cool things about working with growers from different regions throughout Northern California is that they grow many of the same varieties, but the flavors vary depending on the weather and the harvesting technique.

Peppers are awesome right now! We have a wide selection from sweet to hot.  Andy at Mariquita was the first farmer in the area to grow the Pimiento Padron and harvest them at the smaller size; one out of ten peppers has a little heat and they’re perfect sauteed for tapas!  We also have the Jimmy Nardello sweet frying peppers and red Gypsy peppers.

Eggplants seem to be a vegetable that people either love or hate; it doesn’t help that the globe eggplants available for a majority of the year are not a great representation of how tender and flavorful eggplants can really beAt this point in the year, Full Belly Farm harvests Italian Rosa Bianca, purple and white striped Listada and long Asian varieties, all bound to turn any hater into a lover.

Every summer we get so excited to work a new small farm into our produce selection.  This year, Dirty Girl Produce, located on 40 acres in Santa Cruz, has been taking the time to delivery their fresh veggies to our store. Dirty Girl grows over 20 varieties of fruits and veggies and supplies 10 farmers markets throughout the Bay Area.  Their young farmers are harvesting some of the most beautiful and tender beans I’ve experienced.  We currently have their Haricot Vert french bean and some nice Blue Lake green beans… the Cranberry “shelling bean” is not far behind!

 

 


Get to know our 18 Reasons’ Instructors: First up, Louella Hill

We want to introduce you to the great chefs and artisan producers who teach classes at 18 Reasons, so we’ll be sharing interviews with them periodically. First up: Louella Hill, the SF Milkmaid, who teaches cheese making classes. Join her Sunday, August 26th for the second of her Big Wheels series, during which you’ll make cheddar cheese! And stay tuned for an upcoming interview with Shakirah Simley, who will be teaching preserving in September.

Name: The San Francisco Milk Maid, Louella Hill

Occupation: Cheese Maker / Cheese Teacher

Hometown: Bisbee, Arizona

What is a dish that you make for a regular Wednesday dinner? 

Simple chicken tacos with just-made sour cream, sliced jalapenos, raw onion & salsa.

Do you want to share the recipe?

Louella’s Salsa

In skillet, dry toast 1 tsp cumin powder with 2 tsp chili powder for ~ 2 minutes. Be careful not to burn them. Next, into a blender add 5 large skinned, gutted tomatoes, those just-toasted spices, juice of two limes, 1/2 cup cilantro leaves, 1/2 tsp salt, 2 cloves garlic. If the tomatoes aren’t flavorful, add 1 tablespoon honey or sugar or orange juice concentrate. Blend for 1 minute. Next, add another 1/2 cup cilantro leaves and another 2 prepped tomatoes and 1/2 cup corn. Blend for the tiniest amount of time possible (~3-5 seconds). This will give the salsa texture. Pour into glass container and store in fridge. Use within 1 week.

When you were a kid what was your favorite thing to eat?

I loved fruit as a kid. I grew up where apricot and pomegranates grew wild on the hillside. My mom called me ‘The Fruit Bat’.

Who do you admire most in the cooking world (this does not have to be anyone famous. Could be a friend, member of family etc.)? Why?

I admire my godmother, Helen Suby. She grew up in an Orthodox section of Brooklyn, learned the secret of spice while living in Sri Lanka, then became Queen of the Campfire Taco in my hometown on the Mexican border. Her humble kitchen feels like the center of town to me.

What’s your favorite part of working with 18 Reasons?

I love teaching people to make cheese who are really, really interested- not just passing the time. That’s exactly the kind of people I find at 18 Reasons. One of my cheese students from last year’s 18 Reasons classes became an official recipe tester for an upcoming cheese making book I’m working on (due out Fall 2014).

If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring cook what would it be?

Remember that everything- even oil, even flour, even beans- get old. Keep a sparsely stocked fridge and shop often.

Where do you like to take friends visiting from out of town?

I bring visitors up to Sonoma to visit my milk cow friends.

What is your favorite park in San Francisco?

I have a 3 year old so it’s impossible NOT to love the Mission’s Dolores Park.

Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

The joke in my house is “And what’s in this mason jar, Hon?” I’ve filled our refrigerator with dozens of jars of culturing, fermenting dairy projects. It isn’t easy to find ‘just a splash of milk’.

Thanks Louella! Now check out her upcoming Cheddar cheese workshop with us! http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/252195


Anne and Kris

Join us Saturday at La Cocina’s Street Food Festival

This Saturday, August 18th, we’re continuing the tradition of joining the biggest street food party San Francisco/California/the United States has ever seen: La Cocina’s San Francisco Street Food Festival.  The annual event is a fundraiser for La Cocina, a non-profit incubator kitchen that works to provide low-income and immigrant entrepreneurs with the resources they need to launch and grow successful food businesses. It’s also a celebration of the entrepreneurial spirit and amazing food of La Cocina’s vendors, informal vendors across the city, food trucks and carts from some of the best restaurants around.

Each year, the San Francisco Street Food Festival seems to grow by leaps and bounds; this year four more blocks have been added to the venue, and special out-of-town guests will be there to bring a taste of their regional flair. If eating the authentic street foods of Malaysia, Mexico, Tokyo without leaving the comforts of home sound good to you, then the SF Street Food Festival is the place to be on August 18th!

So what are we bringing to the party? We’ll be slinging cups of salted caramel ice cream along with watermelon popsicles–come by and say hi, we’ll be set up on Folsom between 23rd and 24th. We’ll also be signing copies of our cookbook, Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones, at the Omnivore Books table on the corner of Folsom & 22nd (so you can make the salted caramel you’re tasting at the festival at home!)

Marcia Gagliardi (aka The Tablehopper) may have said it best: “I want to do a shout-out to Caleb Zigas and his amazing team (and volunteers!) at La Cocina who all work so hard at this, and each year keep making this festival bigger, better, and even more bodacious. We’re being exposed to so many unique things through this event, we are so damn lucky. All while helping so many women-owned businesses get the exposure and support they need.”

WHEN: Saturday, August 18th, 11 am to 7 pm

WHERE: 10 blocks! Folsom St. from 20th to 26th, 21st and 25th from Treat St. to Shotwell St., as well as the Cesar Chavez Elementary School parking lot, Parque de los Ninos Unidos and Jose Coronada Playground, all in the Mission District, San Francisco

ADMISSION: Entrance is free. Bring cash for food or get a passport to save time and money — buy your souvenir passport today

La Cocina’s also upping the ante with other fun activities this weekend that you don’t want to miss:

* NIGHT MARKET: Because two days is not enough–eat and dance the night away at the first-ever Night Market, intended to take us to the nighttime street food scenes of Bangkok, Singapore, and Malaysia.

* “EAT YOUR CART OUT” BRUNCH: Join Top Master contestant Chef Suvir Saran and three time Cochon 555 winner Matt Jennings for a mimosa-soaked brunch at SOMArts. You will also have the chance to get acquainted with La Cocina’s newest program participants, Mariko, Olive and Guadalupe.

* FOOD & ENTREPRENEURSHIP CONFERENCE: August 19th- 20th at SOMArts, La Cocina will welcome current and future food entrepreneurs and policy enthusiasts for a day of workshops and conversations such as “How to Write about Your Own Food” with New York Times columnist John T. Edge and Helen Rosner, online editor of Saveur Magazine.

 

 

 


Simon

Farming Without Water

Brie Mazurek, the Online Education Manager at the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture, wrote a *juicy* profile last week about the dry farming techniques used by Bay Area farmers in the CUESA newsletter. 

We are proud to carry many of the delicious fruits and vegetables covered in this article. We love the dry farmed potatoes that David Little sends us throughout the year (Yellow Finn, Mountain Rose, Red French, Yellow Laratte…), and  Devoto’s apples in the fall months (their Pink Pearls with the characteristic pink flesh arrived this week). We also have Dirty Girl’s jarred dry farmed tomatoes on our grocery shelves, ready to add to any dish for instant summer sweetness. Thanks for letting us share these stories, Brie!

This week, as the nation grapples with the worst drought in decades, the USDA added more than 218 counties to its list of natural disaster areas, bringing the total to 1,584—more than half of all US counties. Farmers in the Midwest and Great Plains have been the hardest hit, but the drought is a growing reality for farmers across the country, including California. While the Secretary of Agriculture won’t commenton the drought’s link to climate change, it’s at the forefront of everyone’s mind, and as global warming unfolds, knowledge of dryland agriculture will become increasingly valuable.

David Little in the field

David Little of Little Organic Farm has had to adapt to water scarcity in Marin and Sonoma Counties, where most farmers and ranchers rely on their own reservoirs, wells, and springs, making them particularly vulnerable in years with light rainfall. Through a technique known as dry farming, Little’s potatoes and squash receive no irrigation, getting all of their water from the soil.

Mediterranean grape and olive growers have dry-farmed for thousands of years. The practice was common on the California coast from the 1800s through the early 20th century, but it became a lost art during the mid-century. Today, it is experiencing a modest resurgence along the coast, where temperate, foggy summers offer ideal conditions for dry farming grapes, tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, melons, grains, and some tree fruit.

“In the beginning, I searched out people who were known dry-farmers,” says Little, who started in farming in 1995. “It seemed like no one had done it for 30 years or so, and then it wasn’t done much.”

To find mentors, Little made the rounds at local bars, asking older farmers about their experiences. “They were very humble,” he says. “They told stories about how things were done, and I would pick up tidbits.” After years of trial and error, he now considers himself an expert.

To help people understand how dry farming works, Little often evokes the image of a wet sponge covered with cellophane. Following winter and spring rains, soil is cultivated to break it up and create a moist “sponge,” then the top layer is compacted using a roller to form a dry crust (the “cellophane”). This three- to four-inch layer, sometimes referred to as a dust mulch, seals in water and prevents evaporation.

“It’s very challenging because you have to hold the moisture for long periods of time, and you don’t know how different crops are going to react in different areas,” Little says. Much of the land he farms is rolling hills and valleys, which present additional challenges because they hold and move groundwater differently than flat land.

Deprived of any surface irrigation besides the coastal fog, dry-farmed plants develop deep, robust roots to seek out and soak up soil moisture. Because they absorb less water than their conventionally irrigated counterparts, dry-farmed crops are characteristically smaller but more nutrient-dense and flavorful.

“When you water a tree, it dilutes the flavor a lot in some cases,” says Stan Devoto, who dry-farms more than 50 varieties of heirloom apples at Devoto Gardens. “Instead of having a really hard, crisp, firm texture, your apple will be two or three times the size of a dry-farmed apple, and you just don’t get the flavor.”

Devoto's beautiful apples

Devoto has been dry-farming in Sebastopol since the 1970s. “We had no choice,” he says. “There’s just not enough water in West [Sonoma] County to water orchards. Pretty much all the orchards are dry-farmed, with the exception of the orchards where trees are planted super close or use dwarf rootstock.”

Having wide orchard rows, which allow tree roots to spread out, is essential for dry-farming apples, as is thinning (removing much of the fruit early in its development) to ensure that each apple gets as much water as possible. In dryer years (like this one), Devoto must work extra hard to control weeds, which drink water needed by thirsty trees. As the summer progresses, the ground slowly dries out, stressing out the fruits as they ripen, which helps the sugars become more concentrated.

But while water conservation and intensely flavorful crops are the clear benefits of dry farming, the major tradeoff is yield. Devoto says that apple growers in West Sonoma County, which was once home to a booming apple industry, only get about 12 tons per acre, compared to 30 to 40 tons produced by large apple farms in the Central Valley.

Similarly, Joe Schirmer of Dirty Girl Produce says that his famous dry-farmed Early Girl tomatoes sometimes yield only about a third of what their irrigated counterparts produce. Meanwhile, Little estimates that he gets about a quarter to a third the yield of large organic potato growers. “It it’s hard to compete with some of these big organic farms that are watering,” he says.

Without irrigation, his crops are at the mercy of seasonal rainfall and varying soil conditions from year to year. “You’re on the edge constantly, and one little thing could tip you over,” Little reflects. “We’re barely making it, really, but I believe in coastal farming. I believe we’re going to come back to it.”

While dry farming has geographic limitations, it could pave the way for more coastal agriculture and offer techniques for farmers in dryer areas to farm with less water. “The coast of California used to be our main source of food in the state, until they started developing farms in the Central Valley because of all the water,” Little continues. “Now they’re running out of water.”

Devoto’s Gravenstein apples, an early-season heirloom variety that represents Sonoma County’s agricultural heritage, return to the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market this week. “Apples grown in the West County may not be picture-perfect or super large,” Devoto notes. “But the flavor is just phenomenal.”


Good Food Awards: Accepting Entries through August 31st!

Calling all beer, charcuterie, cheese, chocolate, coffee, pickles, preserves, spirits and new this year, confections crafters! The Good Food Awards has launched its third annual call for entries to American food producers–I’m looking at you!

Taking my last year's cheese judging duties seriously!

A blind tasting with Alice Waters, Nell Newman and 130 other judges (including myself and Anthea, our cheese buyer) will determine who is recognized as the Good Food Award winners of 2013.  The catch: everything must be produced in an environmentally and socially responsible manner. The short online entry form and sustainability criteria are available here. The entry fee is $50, which goes to cover the sorting, storing and transporting of an anticipated 1,000 entries.

Annette Moldvaer of Square Mile Coffee - she flew in from London to judge, and is one of the world's top cuppers

All winners are honored at a gala awards ceremony with Alice Waters on January 18th, invited to sell their wares at the 15,000 person Good Food Awards Marketplace on January 19th, and can proudly display the Good Food Awards Seal all year long. Many of last year’s 99 winners also received special placements in Whole Foods Market, Williams Sonoma stores nationwide and independent grocers like ourselves (we’ve carried Emmy’s Pickles and Jams’ Turmeric Cauliflower, Chez Pim’s berry jams, and many more)! Many of the winners were covered in the San Francisco Chronicle, Atlantic Monthly, Washington Post and New York Times. Last year’s winners reported an increase in annual sales that is a strong signal of support for smaller scale food businesses across the country; together they bought about an estimated $800,000 worth of ingredients from sustainable farms, proof of the effect of their combined purchasing power.

Pickles judging

This year I’m extra excited about a new trade association that’s being formed alongside the awards: the Good Food Merchants Guild. Led by the values of transparency, innovation and responsible production, the Merchants Guild is at the frontier of America’s food movement. We’ve signed on as a Founders Circle member of the Guild, because we think it’s so important to find ways to unite, distinguish and connect Good Food businesses across the country. I’ve served as an adviser for the Guild in its start-up phase, and I think the influence of this organization could be huge.

The deadline for submission for a good food award is August 31: enter online at www.goodfoodawards.org today!

Susan, Michael, Linh and Morgan--our chefs put together some killer pork sliders with Good Food Award winning condiments for last year's reception!


 


Mark your calendars: Saturday, September 29th is Party on Block 18!

Every other year, we partner with the other 18th Street food businesses to thank our neighbors for supporting us, and raise money for six local nonprofits.

As with our 2008 and 2010 block parties, 18th Street will be closed off between Dolores and Guerrero to make room for tasty street food (short rib tacos, kati rolls or salted caramel ice cream, anyone?) and a wine and beer garden. Music performances will happen throughout the day, along with a pie baking contest (this year, the judging will take place inside 18 Reasons)! We’re excited to be joined by newcomers to our neighborhood this year, including namu gaji, Izakaya Yuzuki, and Pot and Pantry.

As in the past, all proceeds from the event (including money raised through tickets sales, sponsorship and the pie baking contest) will go directly to a handful of neighborhood non-profits selected by the organizers. This year, the beneficiaries will be 826 Valencia, 18 Reasons, Nextcourse, Buen Dia Family School, Holy Family Day Home and The Women’s Building.

The pie baking contest is for non-professional bakers. Pies will be judged based on flavor and appearance in the following categories: fruit, chocolate, nut and other. Entrants will be chosen on a first come, first served basis, notified via email by September 15th; click here to enter the contest.

Advance food and beverage tickets will be for sale in the weeks before the block party here, at Delfina, Dolores Park Café, Fayes, and Tartine Bakery. A book of 10 costs $20. Click here to buy your tickets online.

Join our Party on Block 18 Facebook page to get updates on menu items and other announcements leading up to the big day.

If you’d like to volunteer that day, or have any questions for the organizers, please drop us a line.

We’re so grateful to the neighborhood that supports all of our businesses day in and day out, and hope that Party on Block 18 is a chance for everyone to come out and celebrate together the relationships that have been formed in our community. The first two block parties were great and we expect this one to be even better, hoping to raise even more money than ever before for the six amazing organizations in our neighborhood that will greatly benefit from
everyone’s help.

See you there!


Chili

Fabrication Nation: Deli Team Lamb Breakdown

One of my favorite parts about being a butcher at Bi-Rite Market is getting to talk to people about where their food comes from.  Last week I was able to walk some of our deli team through the breakdown of a lamb.  We normally work with Don Watson and his Napa Valley Lambs, but recently Marc Cohodes of Alder Lane Farm (whose gorgeous pastured eggs we sell at the Market) has been exploring raising lamb and wanted us to help evaluate one of his animals.  I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to demo a lamb breakdown and give some members of our deli team the chance to see where the cuts that they sell every day come from, as well as talk through the various cooking methods for some of the underappreciated cuts.  As the demo wound down, everyone was excited about getting the chance to try some of the cuts and cooking methods that we had discussed.  Jenny, not a big lamb fan, was given a leg roast.  Robeen and Laura braised a shank and a neck, and Wes cooked a shoulder chop.  Here’s what each of them had to say about their lambfest:

Hi guys, my lamb turned out awesomely!  Beginners luck (maybe).  I marinated the leg in rosemary, garlic, evoo, salt and pepper for a couple hours. Then I added a little more salt and threw it in the cast iron. Seared it a little, then put it in the oven for a half hour. No muss, no fuss. Using my thermometer, cooked it to about medium, which I realize is how I like my meat. I let it rest for about 15 while I made some pasta, and it was perfect. Seriously, delicious. And I just used the leftovers with some veggies in a stirfry. The meat was super tender after being recooked. Thanks for encouraging me to try something new, Chili. It was great.

-Jenny


Hey guys, I finally cooked the lamb shank Chili gave me and want to share. I’ve never braised anything before so I was a little nervous, plus I was so tired when I got home that I was super close to just doing it another time, but I just sucked it up and braised it and I’m really glad I did. I started by frenching the shank then rubbing it with a nice layer of salt and pepper. Then I seared it and set it aside in my Dutch oven. I sweated the mirepoix, then added some beef stock and red wine and got it nice and hot for the oven. I then added it into the Dutch oven and stuck it in the oven at 300 to cook for about 3 hours, turning occasionally. I then took the liquid and veggies and reduced them quite a bit. The end result was a little salty, but that’s how I like it. I strained the veggies as a bed for the shank, then poured the reduced stock+wine on the shank. I apologize if this seems super simple to you but I wanted to share how I prepared it because I really wanna know how you all prepare yours. I hope all of your prospective lamb pieces turned out as great as I thought mine did :-) Bon appétit!

-Robeen

 

Ok, finally got a chance to cook my cut: lamb shoulder chop. Seasoned it well with salt, pepper, ground cumin, fresh-chopped rosemary, minced garlic clove & olive oil. Let sit for a while until it came to room temp. Seared it off in a blazing-hot cast iron skillet with butter and olive oil, meanwhile basting. Flipped after an imprecise 3 minutes. Basted quickly and dropped in the oven at 425. Checked after 10 mins (by touch: done). Also roasted russet potatoes with herbs in the oven. They turned out nicely. The cut was very fatty and chewy, the meat a mild pink color.  I might try slow-roasting it next time. If I were to sear and finish it in the over again, I might shave off a few minutes of oven time, or drop my temp to 375-400. Thanks again, Chili! The lamb butchery class was time well spent.

-Wes

Alrighty, last but not least…. All of yours sound so delicious! After looking in my fridge and around my kitchen I found that I was not in the least bit prepared to braise lamb as I usually would…. no onions, celery, savory herbs, carrots, stock, or even olive oil haha…but that didn’t stop me, oh no! After taking a peak in my flavor bible book (one of my favorites) I decided to take my lamb to a place I had never taken it before.  I made a spice rub from nutmeg, cinnamon, a little ground clove, salt and heavy pepper, and lightly coated the neck with that. I seared it as well as I could with some butter, removed it and put in about 3 cloves of roughly chopped garlic, threw in more butter until they got nice and golden, replaced my lamb and added water about half way up. I also added a small piece of vanilla bean. I covered it, and in the oven she goes at about 250…. after two hours I checked and it was coming along nicely, but I was getting hungry so I turned up the temp to 300, and after about 45 minutes she was oh so ready. I thought it a bit pathetic of me to reduce down my garlic butter water as a sauce, but I did have some polenta which I thought would taste great as a base…and it most totally did. There was much more flavor than I had ever anticipated from this neck, and the added fat already in the neck that released into the broth made the polenta really creamy. In the end I was happy I didn’t use so many extra ingredients this time because it made me realize how much flavor the neck really carries. Amazing! My pic is of the whole finished neck, but I ended up shredding it in my polenta to get all those juicy bits out, yum! And I didn’t even need an added sauce (although I did add a little more butter while cooking the polenta because I just really like butter). The baking spice flavor combination was fantastic, I actually wished that I had used more….I ate leftovers last night and again, delicious!

-Laura

 


Simon

Diggin’ Deeper: Visiting Some of our Favorite Farms

As Bi-Rite’s produce buyer I spend a lot of time talking to farms and building relationships that in the end provide us with amazing produce to put on our shelves.  One of the biggest challenges of working at such a busy market is finding the time to visit these farms and learn more about their operations.  This summer we launched our first series of farm tours through our non-profit 18 Reasons, giving members of the community a chance to get out of the city, walk the fields and talk to the farmers that grow their food.

Olivia (our 18 Reasons event coordinator) and I recently took a group down to Watsonville to visit Yerena and Tomatero Farms. We are very lucky to have so many small farms in Northern California growing a wide range of crops.  However, it’s still hard to find a consistent supply of certain crops from small farms; organic raspberries are a perfect example. Raspberries are a very delicate crop and labor intensive to harvest, so large farms like Driscoll have become the main growers throughout the country.

Ricardo of Yerena teaching our group about their farming methods

Poli Yerena, the head farmer/owner of Yerena, and his family are doing their best to change this. After perfecting his berry growing skills farming for Driscoll for 12 years, he started a small farm with his brother and his two sons. Ricardo, an agronomist, tends to the crops every day while Adrian takes care of the sales. Yerena Organic Farm is a beautiful 16-acre piece of land located in the rolling hills just off the coast of Monterey Bay. Yerena grows three different varieties of raspberries that ripen at different times in the season, giving them a steady supply of berries all summer long and into the fall.  They do an amazing job picking the perfectly ripe berry before it gets too soft; there’s nothing like getting a delivery of fresh raspberries that were picked earlier that day!

Yerena's experiments with heirloom crops: red corn, with shelling beans growing up the stalk!

Yerena Farm might be known for their strawberries and raspberries, but they are also experimenting with heirloom crops from their homeland of Mexico.   It was pretty awesome seeing large stalks of red corn growing 6 ft. tall with an heirloom shelling bean growing up the stalk.  The Yerena family was so generous, sharing baskets of berries with everyone and telling great stories about the family’s farming history and plans to expand the operation in the future. We’re so excited to support Yerena in years to come and can’t wait for their next berry delivery to Bi-Rite!

Tomatero Farm

Next, we headed up the coast to check out Tomatero Farm’s cool weather plot of land, nestled right on the coastline.  This 14-acre parcel gives Tomatero the opportunity to grow beautiful greens and brassicas during the middle of the summer when it’s too hot to grow them inland.  Tomatero grows organically on over 100 acres, comprised of a few different pieces of land from the Watsonville coast through to Hollister, and their young farmers have not skipped a beat with the quality of their produce as the farm has expanded.  Farmer Chris does a wonderful job growing staple crops like lettuce, carrots, basil and strawberries all summer long….but Tomatero’s most popular crop at Bi-Rite Market right now is their extra-flavorful dry farmed Early Girl tomatoes.  Please come by and have a taste!


Kiko’s Food News: 8.3.12

Sysco has pledged to do away with meat from pigs raised in gestation crates; this could have an even greater impact on the practices farmers use across the country than other big names (Burger King, McDonald’s and Kraft, to name a few) that have already made the pledge: (full story, Grist)

Recognizing the challenges faced by food hubs in finding financing, the Healthy Food Commerce Initiative (HFCI), a division of Wholesome Wave, is helping them secure capital by guiding their expansion into new markets, providing technical assistance with business planning, revenue diversification, market sizing, sales strategies and more: (full story, Forbes)

A sommelier for cheese? The 29th annual convention of the American Cheese Society will for the first time offer the Certified Cheese Professional Exam, a test that has been ripening for seven years: (full story, Wall Street Journal)

This article taught me a few new strategies for keeping food fresh at home, from leaving tropical fruits out of the fridge to storing meat and fish at the bottom of it: (full story, Huffington Post)

The new CMO of Quaker Oats discusses how he wants to reinvigorate their brand by targeting younger consumers, particularly moms from 28-32 since “their world is very different from their moms’ world and they are parenting differently from the way their moms parented”: (full story, Forbes)

There’s no doubt that the gluten-free food trend has taken the US by storm; this article investigates how many of us are actually sensitive to gluten, and how flours have changed over time, leading to increased sensitivity: (full story, Fox News)


18+2: Introducing the Bi-Rite Family Farm

In the second episode of “18+2″, 18 Reasons’ new video series, we share the Bi-Rite Family Farm, 18 Reasons’ annual Farm School, and our thoughts on working with Heritage breeds and Heirloom varietals (as well as what those words mean!).

In addition to Farm School, 18 Reasons hosts a year-round Urban Gardening School with Garden for the Environment , monthly Farm to Table Dinner Conversations, and hands-on cooking classes  so you know what to do with all the veggies you learn to grow! We also collaborate with the farms who deliver produce to the Market for seasonal farm & ranch tours.

Our next farm to table dinner will be with Bi-Rite Family Farms in September; get your tickets here to meet Simon and Riley in person! Finally, in September we’re hosting a dinner with Hayes Valley Farm and author Robin Shulman about food production in urban environments; tickets are available here.