Monday, January 21, 2008

Two Small Farms Newsetter #424

1. Planting Apples and Pears
2. Signing up for 2008
3. Pick up site info
4. Employment at 2SF
Ladybug Letter: computer theft!
6. Thanks to 101 Cookbooks and Heidi

Planting Apples and Pears
by Stephen

For a time around the turn of the last century the Pajaro Valley was considered the largest apple growing district in the United States. By some accounts the valley floor from Corralitos to Aromas was nearly carpeted with trees. The town of Watsonville itself was dominated by apple packing sheds, apple driers, and juice and vinegar factories.

By the middle of the century, as vast plantings in Washington and Oregon came into production, the tide had turned. Because there are fewer problems with apple diseases and insects, land and water are cheap and plentiful, and the apples themselves attain better color and size in the Pacific Northwest, growers in the Pajaro Valley couldn’t compete. Strawberries, vegetables, and floral crops eventually replaced the apples and the majority of orchards were removed—pushed over by bulldozers and set alight in enormous piles.

And so it raised a few eyebrows when I announced this year that we’ll be bucking that trend by planting apples and pears here at our home farm. But to me it makes perfect sense.

With the help of my friend Freddy Menge, a tireless advocate of rare and forgotten apples, we grafted over 25 varieties onto trees that had been planted several years ago as a demonstration orchard at the Redman House site where we lease land. Last season we let them fruit for the first time, and tasting some of the varieties was a revelation to me. That the selection available to us in supermarkets has been narrowed down to half a dozen or so varieties is certainly based on factors other than flavor because these apples had the most complex, juicy, delicious flavor of any I had ever tried.

It occurred to me that through the CSA we had the perfect venue for selling these rare but delicious apples—apples that are difficult or impossible to find elsewhere. We are always looking for ways to offer a wider variety of fruit to our customers. So this year we have decided to plant four of our favorite varieties from that demonstration orchard along with 6 different varieties of pears here at our home farm.

One of the apple varieties we’ll be planting is Hudson’s Golden Gem—first introduced in the 1930s. It is clear that its appearance alone has limited its popularity. While wholesale markets demand bright colors and shiny skins, the Golden Gem has a dull, rough, russetted skin and a brownish yellow color. Underneath that skin, however, is a sweet, crisp, pear-like flesh unlike anything I have ever tried. The other three apples are Rubinettes, Waltannas (named after a couple named Walt and Anna), and Jonagolds (the one newer variety we like a lot).

We’re also excited about planting pears. Of the six pear varieties we have chosen, three are French butter pears (Hardy Beurré, Beurré Superfine, Easter Beurré). The others are called Harrows Delight, Warren, and Seckel. Seckels are an American variety, developed near Philadelphia at the end of the 18th century. They’re small and not suited for long distance traveling, but are fine textured, juicy, and syrupy—a perfect CSA fruit.

Putting some of our steeper hillside slopes into perennial plantings makes perfect sense from a land management standpoint as well. Planting annual vegetables on these hillsides requires extensive tillage, taxing our equipment and tractor drivers and exposing the soil to erosion. When the orchard is established we will plant grass between the tree rows. The grass will provide protective cover and only require a mowing pass or two each year.

We’re awaiting our first delivery of trees this week, and will be keeping our crew busy during the next month planting root stock and grafting on the varieties from scion wood we’ve been collecting. It feels good to be doing our part to preserve Watsonville’s orcharding heritage.


2. Signing up for 2008

If you intend to sign up for
Two Small Farms Vegetable
CSA Boxes in 2008 please
tell us now. If you're able to send a check now, that's great. For those that prefer to wait until Feb/early March to send your check, no problem, we're just putting out an early call for those that want to send $ now. Thanks much.

simple sign up form

Pick Up Site List

Returning Member Form

Make checks out to Two
Small Farms
and send to:

Two Small Farms
PO Box 2065
Watsonville, CA 95077-2065

prices: 9 weeks: $180; 9 weeks with flowers: $234
36 weeks full season with discount: $691; full season with flowers with discount: $898 4 weeks (new members only): $80; 4 weeks with flowers: $104


3. We are seeking pick up site hosts for: Carmel (mouth of the valley preferred), Seaside, and Santa Cruz Westside. Call Shelley in the office if you're interested or would just like further info.


4. Two Small Farms Employment:

We hired Zelda's replacement: She's the amazing Shelley Kadota! Welcome to Shelley. Zelda continues to be part of our farms: she's currently helping Stephen with some on farm planting projects. You may occasionally see her at the Sunday Mountain View Farmers market too.

We're looking for two drivers for our 2008 season. Must be reliable, on time, and have an excellent driving record (you need to show your dmv print out), (no special drivers license needed) 20-30 hours a week, Tues-Friday, or Wed-Thursday; some lifting involved. pay = $13-$14 depending on experience. Located in Watsonville

contact Jeanne or Steve via email or phone: or 831 786 0286


5. Ladybug Letter Signup

Note: Some of you enjoy getting Andy's Ladybug Letter as well as this newsletter. There are different articles posted there: it's Andy's Writing Venue. In late November the Mariquita Farm Main computer was stolen and we lost well over 1000 names on our mailing list. (I was backing up incorrectly, I'm smarter about it now, and we didn't lose any of Andy's writings or any photos! phew.) Please consider signing up again or trying it out for the first time, thank you! The latest article Andy wrote was a slightly snotty piece that outlined what he thinks newspaper food sections SHOULD write about in 2008.


6. Thanks to Heidi of 101 Cookbooks for writing sweet things about our farm AND a great cabbage soup recipe to boot. Read her post.

It's worth visiting just to see her remarkable food photography. It's takes Heidi to make cabbage soup look fabulous! -julia