Saturday, January 25, 2014

Farmers Having Farmer Friends

It doesn't matter what type of business you may be involved with, you always feel you need to have a bit of an edge, in some way, over the competition.  If it is sales, you need a clever ad, a secret item that will dazzle the public.  It may be a good location for customers; it may be that a company knows something about the future that his competitor doesn't know.
In farming, I have found farmer's do like to keep some "trade secrets" to themselves; but in general they are a very close and helpful group of people.  Rice farmers tend to hang out with other rice farmers; walnut growers with other walnut growers.  The big growers like to hang out with other big farmers and generally don't give much credit to small farmers.  If you grow vegetables, people who have orchards don't seem to be too interested, except if you want to talk about water or other common threads.
Frank and I have a few local farmer friends, but vegetable farming is extremely hard work and there are fewer and fewer growers of vegetables or flowers, especially farms that do all the work themselves, instead of hiring laborers. 

We do have one particular family that is very special to us.  They are the Maciel Family Farm.  The whole family work on their farm and are a very, very close and loving family.  We call them the Danny boys whenever we see them or talk about them because the senior and oldest son is named Dan (ny).  They come by to talk about farming couple times a month in the winter; we share some farming items; they advise me about different planting processes; we talk about anything and everything about farming.  The parents were born in Mexico and owned several vegetables farms before moving to California, but their children are American born.  They have been leasing property and their latest property is on E. Evans Reimer Road owned by another fabulous farming family, The Silvas who also own the Manzanita Market.  The Silva's have some land around the market and it wasn't being used.  There is a small nursery next to the market called Happy Jack Flower Shack  The Maciel Family now lease the land and their crops are beautifully grown, and they use only the most sustainable practices. Great combination of businesses.
Last year we purchased our tomato, pepper and other plants through a nursery.  We probably spent over $700 in plants.  That is a lot of money for small farmers.  Over the winter, I had been reading about "plugs" to start my added flower plants, the flats you can buy or raise your own plants as starts, 250-300 holes in flats to place seeds.  And when the plants have grown you either put in the ground or transplant.  The other day when the "Danny boys" came by to chat, we started talking about plugs and darned if they hadn't done this for years and already had their plants going in a greenhouse.  And in true form of them, a few hours later, I found some plug flats at my gate for me to use myself to start my own.  I probably will end up purchasing some plants anyways, but hopefully my first year of growing more of our own plants will save me some $$.
We grow pretty much the same things, they now are growing even more than we are because they are leasing more land to have things producing from March clear through November.  But they do not have fruit trees, or herbs or flowers as we do.  Our "markets" of buyers are different yet we help each other out by referring customers who may need produce that we each may not have at the moment-partnerships in the farming business. 
Once both of our fields are planted, we won't see much of each other all through summer/fall with all of us being so busy.  Once a month in the summer, the Silva's have a big lunch time BBQ where they cook either Tri-Tip sandwiches or hamburgers/hot dogs outside the Manzanita Grocery Store.  Great fun where locals stop by, sit at some outside tables and chat about what else?  Water, farming, new rules, the weather, new tractors, new equipment, just fun farming stuff.  After having our lunch, we always stop by next door to the store to see the Maciel family working hard picking, watering, sorting, selling their produce, - just like us.

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