I’m excited to feature Coco Morante’s writing talents for this farm profile. A friend and fellow member of the South Bay Salon, Coco writes for Edible Silicon Valley as well as her own blog, It Was Just Right. Photos by yours truly. ~Danielle
On a warm, late-August morning, Danielle and I took a drive down the coast to visit Fifth Crow Farm in Pescadero. Co-owner Teresa Kurtak met us with her baby Charlie in tow and graciously took us on a tour, steering her ATV-style stroller through the furrowed fields all the while.
Fifth Crow Farm was born seven years ago when founders Teresa, Mike Irving and John Vars leased 10 acres of land from private landowners Gene and Donna Richeson. Things have changed a lot since the early years, when 14 to 16-hour workdays were the norm. The farm has grown – it now leases 80 acres of land (of which 30 acres are used for vegetables), and all of the founders are new parents: Teresa and Mike’s son Charlie was born on March 1st of this year, as was Naima, daughter of John and his wife Maggi.
By implementing sustainable, organic farming practices, Teresa and the Fifth Crow crew have transformed the land completely. Before they began farming this land in the Fall of 2008, it was used for conventional crops of artichokes and brussels sprouts. Now in its seventh sustainably-planted season, the farm is home to over 40 varieties of vegetables, a flower program, a flock of 700 laying hens, and an heirloom apple orchard with 28 varieties.
Working together with Anthony Chang of Kitchen Table Advisors, Teresa, Mike and John developed their vision for a farm that would provide not just organic produce, but also sustainable employment for its farm team. They employ 18 full-time workers, supporting them through the winter with profits from the growing season. Even when the harvest is done, there are still fences to build and infrastructure to maintain. Crops may be seasonal but the farm work continues year-round.
Life on an organic farm is far from a mundane grind. In practice, it’s exciting, stimulating, and dynamic work. As Teresa says, “Every month is different. Every year is different. . . Farmers are systems managers. People, nature, and machinery have to work together.” Whether they’re planning next year’s crops (it’s a 3-day process, as the partners pore over maps of the farm) or dealing with day-to-day concerns like last-minute restaurant orders, there is always a new problem to solve.
All of the hard work and passion that goes into growing this produce is evident in the product —in the fields, baby lettuces are tender and crisp and flowers grow tall and sturdy, ready to be cut and arranged into stunning bouquets. In the greenhouse, walls of trellised cherry tomato vines are heavy with fruit, and the bell peppers are glossy and vibrantly colored, in varieties ranging from deep purple to yellowy-green.
If you’re interested in tasting some of Fifth Crow’s produce for yourself or are seeking a vibrant farm bouquet for the mantle, look for them at numerous farmers’ markets throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. They have a CSA program with pick-up sites from San Francisco to San Jose and are also featured on the menu at San Francisco restaurants like Range and Starbelly. You can also attend their annual Open House, which includes an apple-tasting, tractor rides, and a potluck-style dinner.