Ep 121: Quality Specialty Vegetables – Babe Farms

You’ve heard “quality over quantity”, right? Well, what if you could have both? Our guest today is Jeff Lundberg from Babe Farms in Santa Maria, California. Babe Farms grows quality vegetables and also grows a quantity of varieties, from traditional veggies like carrots and radishes all the way to lesser known vegetables like romanesco and frisee. Jeff and I chat about the start of Babe Farms, the relationships they’ve built with customers and how their Farm Days bring out tons of locals looking to learn how their food is made!

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Babe Farms Website

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Show Notes

  • History of Babe Farms
  • Jeff’s background
  • Types of produce grown
  • What does sustainability look like on the farm?
  • How has social media helped showcase the farm?
  • Examples of specialty veggies
  • Crop Talk Newsletter
  • What has been Jeff’s biggest win at Babe Farms?
  • Relationships with workers
  • Yearly Farm Day.  

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There might be a few typos, but you’ll get the gist!  

Trevor Williams
Yeah, absolutely. So you’re with babe farms, a specialty crop growers. I’m super excited to chat with you guys. So before we kind of dive into that, tell me a little bit about your background and kind of how you got started working with big farms.
So I’ve been in the ag area I’ve involved in ag all my life. My family. Were as far as like, as long as I’ve known. I grew up on our farm as a little kid, my grandfather was a farming, his his grandfather. So we’ve been in the business for a long time. So it was kind of inevitable, I kind of grew up in a little, little kid riding around and attracted with my dad. I can remember falling asleep. Watching the wheels go around on the big tractors back in the day. So I have fond memories of all that. So born and raised in the business and in Santa Maria as well. So Santa Maria is a fertile valley that has ocean influence. And and it’s been it’s a it’s it’s farming is what it’s not important.
Trevor Williams
That’s awesome. So you guys grow a lot of stuff. I’m looking at your website. And it’s awesome. By the way, I love geeking out over like really nice website. So as it says you’re the pioneer, especially vegetables. So what’s your whole production? Like? What do you guys grow? And kind of how is it kind of grown from what it started out.
So they, they’ve grows a lot of varieties of products, we probably grow 70 varieties. And it’s probably we did that 52 weeks a year, which is kind of not as normal around here. We are a little milder climate in the Salinas Valley. So most people even in Santa Maria traveled to you in the winter months. And we do for some organic production and some things that we have some growers down there, but but the large majority, you know, over 90% of what we do is year round here in the Santa Maria Valley. And of those 70 varieties, we probably grow them in groups like 15 varieties, 15 different commodity groups that we call them. They’re either they have like cultural practices, meaning we reform Have them same, we transplant them the same, we cultivate them the same, we fertilize them the same, we treat them the same, so it’s easier for us to treat them as groups. So probably 14 or 15 different groups. And it’s like a large garden out there. Not it’s when I tell people I grow 70 varieties, they look like look at me like I’m crazy. And maybe we are we try to do we try to do it really well. It’s it’s a niche farming. It’s a large niche farm now but at one time, it was very small. And we grow it we try to be very consistent. Our biggest outlets is white tablecloth and high end shefte restaurants. So obviously COVID in the pandemic did not help us because we were so heavily weighted in food service. We are doing a better job of diversifying Avi I thought I was pretty diversified growing 70 varieties, but to be honest with you, when a pandemic hits and the world shuts down, you figure out real quick that you’re not as diversified as you may have thought.
Trevor Williams
I can’t imagine. Yeah, COVID kind of threw everybody in knuckleball, I mean, I know. I’m here in Florida. And so I knew a lot of South Florida farmers they started if they were selling direct to restaurants or wherever they would then start selling direct to consumers. And that kind of worked out really well. So what are some ways that you guys kind of pivoted during the whole COVID or I guess, during COVID, because it’s still kind of going on?
Well, we’re, we’re pretty big operation as far as many moving parts and probably have 250 employees. And we farm about 1000 acres 200 of that is organic. So when when the pandemic hit, and we planned months, even a year ahead of time, we’re working on projections right now for next spring, just trying to stay ahead of it. Understand plan acres and things like that. So when the code when COVID hits, and it shuts it off in a day. I mean, I remember the day it was March 12 and in the world has stopped. And we had acres and acres of product and made us sick because you drive out there and when when the restaurant business really shut down, there’s really no outlet. People ask why? How do you waste that much food, there’s no way you can turn it around and find alternate avenues you know, supermarkets and retailers have have contracts and they have relationships and we have some of those we just didn’t have enough to handle that. That surge of all that product. It was supposed to go to fruit servers, and then all of a sudden was turned off like a light switch. It was crazy. So we some things that that affected us it was weird. Just like the pandemic affected businesses differently. Meaning Home Depot’s in the lowest of the world and the big business to Walmart’s and targets they had their best year ever, you know, you see that which kind of made me sad because the small mom and pop and I would consider our our farming operation a family business. It may grow 1000 acres especially but we are very family oriented. And and I’m not a corporation by any means. My mom and I are on the board and we usually have conversations over coffee and we we write things down on napkins, we do not have corporate meetings if we can help it.
So we we had some we had some changes in how things you know, the pandemic made people buy different, what they looked at some of the more hardware items we go karate and kale and kale was a superfood years ago but it really made a comeback in the pandemic because people were in supermarkets buying the things that they were comfortable with and they knew would last you know those all those hardware items, carrots, potatoes and things that I think that I don’t grow. I go specialty carrots, but there’s a lot of things out there. Broccoli, lettuce, cauliflower, people are in the storage buy in that stuff because they were forced to the more restaurants they were all at home cooking.
Trevor Williams
Yeah, that’s very interesting. I mean, yeah, I saw so many people throughout the country, they were even having to dump produce because they had nowhere for it to go. And I heard a lot of consumers think well, why can’t you donate all that stuff to pantries and food pantries. But I mean those food pantries only have so much cold storage, they can store all the produce at so it’s crazy.
Exactly right. We did donate a lot. We were I mean, at that point, we just tried to get rid of it. Give it to somebody that can use it. But there was so much so many people doing the exact same thing. You’re exactly right. They can only take so much. I mean they can only hold so much. And then the product is perishable in the field. So it’s ready this week and next week there’s another planning ready so you just continually the pot pile up You can’t just sit there and sit on it a week probably yes. But any more than that you’re overdue and you just need to get rid of it.
Trevor Williams
Yeah, no, I can imagine. So I know when it comes to like big farms that kind of do like kind of mono cropping kind of like corn, wheat, soybeans and stuff like that. But on a big vegetable farm like you guys do y’all crop rotate it all How am I how exactly does that work on your operation?
So we do we rotate the so strawberries is a big commodity in the Central Valley along with watsonville Oxnard and Salinas and Santa Maria has really grown in strawberry acreage. We have strawberry farmers that we rotate with probably upwards of 200 acres every year. I rotating this so we’re farming 1000 acres. 200 of that is in rotation at all at all at all times. So if a farmer 2000 acres, 200 acres, we’re getting around in every five years, those 200 acres of strawberries are on a different 200 acres of farming that I do, which helps me break cycles along with all my commodities, I definitely have a rotation by myself. But strat rotating with strawberries is a tool to help break disease pressure, because you can really make yourself some problems by farming the same type of commodities on the same ground over and over. So strawberries is one way that you do that. And strawberries have the same need, they will have serious problems if they farm Strawberry Strawberry strawberries, they can get away with it twice. And so can I usually, but if you start doing things two or three times, four times for sure, you will make yourself your own problems. No, I
believe you. Yeah. I love learning about Florida or California strawberries because I know Florida and California kind of have a little bit of a rivalry because we I mean, both days are kind of the rare ones where we can grow 52 weeks out of the year. And if most of the countries down Florida and California are growing, we’re growing strawberries and no, I think Plant City is the winner, strawberry capital of the world. But I think like for the rest of the year, you guys in California are the strawberry capital of the world.
Yeah, it’s pretty crazy. It really gets going here in March, April, depending on how cold or wetter winter is. And it just rolls all the way into November, December. The longer they can hold on to it. They will depending on when rain starts here. But yeah, you’re right. Those, those those strawberry acres are very popular during those times. And California is big. I bet
Trevor Williams
so yeah, we’ve got a place down here. I think strawberry crest. It’s kind of around Tampa. That’s kind of the big strawberry belt. And I mean, they are obsessed with strawberries down that there’s a strawberry festival. I know people that make like strawberry pizza, which it’s like a dessert kind of so are you all kind of the same way do you have like a particular area around Santa Maria, that are kind of like obsessed with strawberries around the area.
There’s a strawberry festival in Santa Maria annually. I think they missed it last year with the COVID pandemic but it’ll be back and it is a big deal. You’re right strawberry, everything from drinks to decorations. It’s amazing what they can do with strawberries. They definitely, they do it all.
Trevor Williams
That’s so cool. Yeah, I’m about, I think an hour and a half from Dothan Alabama. And I think something like 70% of the country’s peanuts come within a 50 mile radius of them. And they’ve got a huge peanut festival. They’ve got these funny little peanut statues outside of buildings where they all like kind of customize them. So it’s always cool kind of seeing like communities kind of rally around their local commodity. So whether that’s in Florida, Alabama, or California. So I know sustainability is getting super popular as people want kind of a more sustainable food system, and they just want to buy, I guess healthier, more sustainable crops or food whenever they go to the grocery store. So what are you guys doing to kind of be more sustainable, and also to let you know, to let people know what you guys are doing.
So we sustainability is kind of a necessary item, it’s not something that we have ever not wanted to do. But the more productive you can be, which sustainability kind of helps with that as far as not abusing your soil. There’s no one that wants the soil to be healthier and fibrin than the farmer because that makes productivity. So we do things like drip irrigation, which saves on water, we do a lot we do drip everywhere we possibly can, there are certain crops that just do not aren’t conducive to that we do things like cover cropping. Obviously, the rotation I spoke about any reservoir that we may have, we have one reservoir that we treat the water. So that is all within specs of melt lgma, which is a which is a committee or advisory association that we are all part members of we will recycle water. Any sometimes when reservoirs will catch water, or we have catch basins, there’s rules in California that you can’t have your water running on your neighbors. So what we’ll do is pump it out of rules, reservoirs and use that water to water roads. Our commercial fertilizers are no longer used on organic farming for obvious reasons. So we’re rotating those crops, with other varieties trying to get used beneficials to suppress disease. There’s there’s definitely some tools in the in the in the toolbox that we use to do that. So it’s it’s very much a family business. farm workers are part of that maintaining self and have a safe and healthy work environment for employees. We do not exist without our employees, we have a great team of employees and labor such a shrinking value. You know, as far as commodity, we try to take care of that commodity. Those people are just doing what everything does, and we have some really long term employees has worked for us for a long time. So we really respect that and we’re proud of that.
Trevor Williams
That’s awesome. Um, yeah, so before I forget I know water in California is kind of a hot commodity. So what’s that? What’s that struggle like when you’ve got 1000 acre farm, but you’re also in a state where water is kind of scary or something, you’ve got the fires going on and stuff like that. So what’s that struggle like?
It’s difficult by for sure. We live in we farm in an area that is mostly supplied by underwater aquifers, which were blessed. The Yuma area, and Arizona is all driven by canal system. So it’s all open water. So from a food safety perspective, our system is much more desirable because you pump it out of the ground. But that doesn’t make more water you. I mean, Mother Nature has to be part of that. The drip system that I was explaining to you at some of the water conservation practices that we do where we do hot over water, we do not waste water. We don’t waste fertilizer. I remember years ago, I mean, inputs were cheaper, when I was just a kid get into it, I remember remembered, you would plant more you would fertilize more, because all those inputs and even water was more more prevalent, you would be able to do all those things. Just because it was easy. Just make sure you had it to make sure you available. We don’t do that we do not grow anything or apply any input that we know isn’t going to be utilized completely. Or at least, you know, harvested. We do not plan for the hope this gets harvested. We don’t waste. There’s no such thing as waste anymore. In in real time farming.
Trevor Williams
Yeah, I like that. I like that. So in terms of harvesting, I know you mentioned your workers earlier. And I know Shea Meyer is I’m not sure if you’re familiar with him with I can’t remember why he produced I think they grow onions. And I can never remember if he’s in Colorado or Idaho, but we had him on the show. He deals with a lot of onions. And he recently went to the Senate or to the US Capitol to kind of talk about working with immigrants, hoa visas and stuff like that. And I know COVID had a huge impact on that. So I mean, what what is the whole labor situation right now because I know, picking 1000 acres of vegetables like that’s hard labor.
It is it is like I said we have approximately 250 employees year round. That’s probably what I have gone for me the most a lot of including strawberries are very seasonal. So it’s hard to hold on to labor if you can’t get it on paycheck 52 weeks a year. I’m one of the few farms that sticks around and farmed. I’m as busy and Thanksgiving weekend or, you know, things November in December as I am in March and April. And it’s because we have that used to be before COVID. And we’re still the new normal is different than it once was. But we definitely have a used to have a very seasonal push for the holidays. Thanksgiving and Christmas. Not that’s not normal for vegetables, I guess it is, but it’s more prevalent in my business. And last year was an anomaly, obviously. But usually we get this big push for the November and December months. That keeps us busy. And that year round consistent. You know, workload is actually something that helps me hold on to labor. My labor is side of employees have been with us for honestly, 2030 years, I have individuals that have a harvest foreman, carvers manager, who his mother works for me and my sales desk. She’s worked for us for 30 some years, and he’s worked for me for 10 ever since he got out of college. Oh, wow. So those are, those are success stories. It’s pretty cool.
Trevor Williams
Yeah, that’s awesome. That’s cool to hear. Yeah, I’ve heard more and more stories about large operations that have workers like that, that kind of stick around for the long haul. That’s awesome. And so I actually found you guys, I think on Instagram, and it seems like you’ll have a pretty active presence on social media on the internet. And so what I mean, what was the inspiration behind that? And how are you guys using that as kind of a tool to show people what you guys are doing and all about your great produce.
So I’ll be the first to say that I’m not a social media, social media on Facebook, but my marketing person came to me sales and marketing manager now came to me and said, You know, this is where I’m this has been years we’ve been doing this for probably eight or 10 years. And it’s kind of a pay it forward kind of expense. And and it’s a it’s a it’s an education, we use social media, mostly for marketing. It’s a tool to reach to the end user, really the chefs, the retailers, the shoppers, the food, bloggers, you know, etc. It helps it helps answer questions, it directs them to where they can purchase our products. Really our color, our diverse product line really translates well on social media. It appeals to people we get a lot of people looking at our, our, our website just for the things that you you bring up because it’s it’s easy to look at. Not everybody has that many colors, and that array of variety to look at so it really helps us. We we have opportunities to collaborate with others. companies and we use social media to kind of get that out there. There’s an example there’s a there’s a woman here on the coast and uses our product she does crazy boards, like crudity board giveaways, and she will use our products build these amazing plugin ridiculous looks like flower arrangements, and then she’ll, she’ll put him out there for weddings and events. And people don’t even want to touch him. They’re so pretty, but you can eat everything on the plate from from whatever whatever is there. From carrots to bok choy to to it’s just gorgeous radishes we have all these different colors or radishes cutsem she, she claims she gets really really pretty. It’s amazing. Yeah, I’m
looking at your Instagram right now. It’s just Bay underscore farms. I mean, the color there the carrots, the brussel sprouts. The beets, radishes, everything. I mean, it looks so good. And even. Are these purple brussel sprouts. You guys grow? Are those cooked?
Yeah, we do a little bit of both. Yeah, purple color. It’s a big thing. We do horrible. radishes we do. So we do some ninja radishes we do purple. We’ll have purple cauliflower, baby cauliflower, and certain times of the year. It’s It’s It’s definitely an interesting color. We have a new baby Brussels it’s a very popular item. We’ll go to shows and that’s I get your purple baby brussels sprouts people like didn’t know those existed.
Trevor Williams
Yeah, it’s like, it’s like something different. They’re like, Hey, I didn’t know this was a thing, kind of like the purple carrot towel. And I had no clue. But apparently, carrots were originally purple. And then they were just turned orange over time. That’s awesome. So you guys, also you’re doing something which is great. And I’ve struggled at doing it. But it’s your crop top your crop talk newsletter. So what’s the idea behind that and just kind of updating people on what you guys are doing?
Yeah, again, it comes from the marketing side. And it’s it’s kind of a little more old school. It’s a newsletter. It’s paper, or it’s electronic. We do both. But mostly nowadays, it’s electronic. But it originally started as a paper thing that we would send out to our customers. It’s either it moves between monthly and bimonthly. That we send out to our customers and contacts if features what’s in season, what’s the best, you know, most fresh in season? Because there is some there’s definitely some seasonality to what we do. We try to have everything year round. But there’s times a year there’s easier and better and more prevalent recipes, all the latest events and happenings and made farms. It’s really just a way to get in front of our customers and have them say, Hey, we’re still here. This is what we’re doing. This is what we’re looking at. And we get a lot of attention that way. Chefs like it, they, they they actually will look tag us and come back and they’ll say Look what I did with Maine farms, carrots, and we love that we just just a big circle kind of spins it up.
Trevor Williams
Yeah, that’s so cool. I love hearing about the relationship between chefs and farmers. Because I think, I mean right now with like Food Network and stuff like that. I mean, we treat chefs like celebrities, and rightly so I mean, they’re hardworking, very creative people. But I feel like lately, more and more people have started to pay attention to farmers and kind of learning where their food comes from. And I think a lot of chefs are kind of helping that too. And so I mean, do you think that’s a super important relationship? I mean, obviously, between the farmer and the consumer, but also between the farmer and the chef, do you think that’s kind of also a very powerful relationship?
I do. I do. And we, in particular, have really good relationships with lots of chefs, because of the type of products that we grow and promote. Before there was a cooking show, who would have thought that you could actually get people to watch people cook food on TV, you know, 15 years ago. And now it’s like, so popular. And I think what has helped us is people will want like, I’ve seen some of the shows where they have this surprise thing, and it was romanesco I’ll pick romanesco I’m not sure if I’m familiar, but it’s in a cauliflower family. It looks almost like a pine cone. It has this point to it. And it’s a brassica. It looks very much it’s very much part of the brassica family tastes a little bit like cauliflower has a nutty taste to it. Anyways, they would just drop this in the middle of this, this competition on TV. And all of these pieces. Most the chef’s knew what it was, some didn’t. But nobody watching the show knew what it was like, What is that? And it affects our call and or we’ll get it we’ll get a surge. And it’s because hey, they saw TV, they know it can be done. I want to do that. And there’s more and more people. Let’s face it, that are cooking gourmet vegetables or any kind of meals, just because there’s so much of it out there. There’s so much media out there. And that and the fact that if you go to a white tablecloth restaurant in Vegas or a big city, and you sit there and you have this meal that is like Wow. I it just reminds people that hey, I want I want to have this more often. So there’s more and more people and really could home chefs that are home cooking, that have learned it seen it and they want to do it too.
Trevor Williams
It’s pretty cool. Yeah, that’s awesome. I mean, you get things like Food Network. Coming in, of course, YouTube is another big one where I mean, anytime I want to learn to make a dish, I’ll just go on YouTube and just Google it. I mean, it’s it’s pretty handy. So yeah, you’re right. I mean, it goes for everything. Oh, yeah. Are y’all? Is there any certain type of chef or restaurant y’all are looking to kind of work with? Or is it really just anybody interested in getting some fresh grape produce from you all?
Yeah, we we, we have no qualms about working with anybody that wants to work with us. And if you’re looking for a high quality, you know, high end, very good, colorful produce, then you need to be talking to us because I think what I will never forget this, I was at a show and somebody walked up to me. And we we do we used to do four or five, we do four or five, six shows a year. And we’ll be sitting there and somebody walked up and said, Hey, babe barks. You guys are like the Coca Cola of baby bitch. I’m like I’m gonna use because who doesn’t know what Coca Cola is? Right? So we want to be well known. And that’s kind of who we we’ve been doing this since 1986. And I don’t think anybody does as large array of specially vege as a farm. So we hope to be the forefront for a long time. Yeah, that’s
Trevor Williams
kind of a compliment the Coca Cola specialty vegetables. I mean, that’s, that’s hard to beat. So you said earlier, y’all grow corabi? Right. So I grew that when I was teaching Ag and I haven’t taught or haven’t grown it since. So what’s, what’s a good way to cook that like, I don’t think I’ve actually had it besides just taking a bite out of it raw. I feel like most people don’t know what it is. So what’s a good way to cook and prepare it?
So it’s very, it’s pretty diverse. And it’s pretty popular. It’s one of the few products that during the pandemic actually grew in volume, it really, really pushed like it was one of the one of the few that really increased, and I think it was because it’s such a hardware item, you can store it, you can keep in your fridge, it’ll last for weeks. It has the texture of either broccoli, like a broccoli stem. And if you’ve grown it you know what we’re talking about. I’ve seen I’ve seen it in salads, after you peel the outer skin off the outer skin kind of has this more of a tougher feel. But the interior is has that broccoli stem texture or a coma as a almost if you’re familiar with income, it almost says the texture of hair come up. But the flavor of almost like broccoli, I’ve seen it in soups. It’s very popular in the Asian community with that so it’s it’s it’s pretty diverse special for sure.
Trevor Williams
Yeah, I don’t think I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen it at a restaurant but I know a bunch of people that cook by and a lot of people that swear by it so I don’t know if our local Publix has it but I’m going to have to stock up on some corabi and trying to cook it
because everybody knows what it is and if you’ve never seen it he kind of grows he Have you seen if you grow it grows up on top the ground you know the roots in the ground and has this wall on top of the ground and then these leaves coming out of the sides of it it just it’s an entry. It’s got the same texture like I said and that waxy feel of broccoli leaves, but it’s and it is a brassica but it’s it’s got a different look for sure it looks it has its own distinct look for sure.
Trevor Williams
Yeah, if you don’t know what it is, you’re gonna think it’s like some kind of like alien vegetable. You’re like, What in the world is this?
Yeah. Yeah, it’s amazing. I was at I watched with my kids are watching the Star Wars. I can’t remember which which one it was. But at one point, they showed this table full of vegetables. And they were trying to find things that just didn’t look normal. Nobody would recognize. And romanesco and kohlrabi were on it on that table because I stopped it and I said kids rewind. And I looked at it was a still shot up the table. I’m like, that’s romanesco and that is kohlrabi and it’s stuff that you would never see. On a normal table. It was interesting.
Trevor Williams
No way. I’m I’m a big Star Wars fan. So I’m gonna have to go look for that. That’s pretty nice. I
can’t remember. Which, which, which episode, but I swear I stopped it. And I told the kids and they both laughed.
Trevor Williams
That’s awesome. That’s so cool. I mean, you never know what the ag industry is gonna impact and now it’s even Star Wars. That’s cool. Yep. So you’ve built relationships with with, with restaurant owners with consumers and stuff like that. You’ve been going through the pandemic, what would you say has kind of been the biggest win with your time here at babe farms?
biggest win? Yeah.
You know, I like I said, I was born and raised in this business. I went to Cal Poly graduated in 94. And like I said, it was a family business started in 86. And I really worked there throughout the years. My biggest win is really the the camaraderie and the continued. Just loyalty from an employee base. No matter we’ve been through some tough times everybody goes through tough times pandemic was one of those, but the fact that everybody wants to hunker down employees wise and support you because we were All of us together. Obviously, everybody employed here can go find a job somewhere else. But and when it’s all said and done, I’m the one that’s going to be left left holding the bag. But nobody has ever felt and given me the impression that they’re uncomfortable, they’re going to let let us down. It’s all about this is a team effort. And I have, like I said, some people that have been here for years and years and years, and they live and bleed and breathe like it’s their own. And I, I totally appreciate that. And I could never express my gratitude enough of how much people care about it, like it’s theirs. And that’s what I think makes us who we are. We had an interview, and did a small thing. And we have a woman that works on my wash line. She’s been with me for I think, 30 or 35 years. Really nice lady, broken English, mostly Spanish. And we let her speak about what she liked about vape farms and, and her the pride that she takes in every box of leaves that wash line before it gets on a pallet comes to our cooler. It just almost cracked me. I mean, it just really affected me because she talked about it, like she cared about every box. And that’s the way that’s the way I want it. And that’s the way it really is around here. So it really I appreciate that. I’m proud of that. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Trevor Williams
That’s good to hear. I feel like that kind of buy in is really difficult nowadays. And so that’s good. That’s kind of like a I mean, everybody at bay farms is kind of on the same page. They’ve all got that passion for what you’re doing. So that’s really good to hear. I’m excited to hear that.
Yep, that’s really good. It’s a it’s a good feeling for sure.
Trevor Williams
I bet. So last question. What do you think about the farmer consumer relationship? I think it’s gotten a lot better over the last couple years, I think more and more people, like we’ve said, like, even during COVID have wanted to figure out more about where their food comes from, and stuff like that, like people have been going to farmers markets trying to buy more direct. And so what do you think about that relationship? Is it getting better? Is it getting worse? Does it need some work? What do you think?
I think it’s, I think it’s a never ending conversation or an opportunity to educate consumers. I’m involved in a few organizations. And, and we farmers are not very good about telling their story. And we believe we have been in the past, we’re trying to be better at that. We are trying to be proactive. If you’re always in defense mode, defending yourself from every organization that wants to, you know, put you down or say that you’re not doing it right, you’re wasting water, you’re spraying too many pesticides. They’re always something out there trying to knock you down. But what farmers have to do a better job of is being proactive and telling their story. I’m I’m on a board of an association that is using that very platform with social media just to get out there and connect consumers, to the farmer, and really people to people, because that’s where the connection is. Not everybody understands how farming works, and all the stuff that goes in and all the hands that really bring it to, to the grocery store. But if if they understood how much blood sweat and tears and passion like I was describing goes into those boxes, they wouldn’t maybe not be so critical of it or are quick to judge. I think one of the biggest misconceptions of the consumer is just how the there’s a lot of marketing that goes into ag. And not all farmers are good marketers. But for instance, I’ll use organic, I think organic is a well marketed term. There’s nothing wrong with organic. But there’s really nothing wrong with conventional either in the world we live in conventional and organic farming is very safe, it’s very healthy, we wouldn’t be able to do it in the world we live in if it wasn’t, but when people step on something to make the other one look better. I have a problem with that. I grow both I talk I do not put down either one. I think they both have their place. You know, organic has slower and lower yields. It drives prices up. But there are certain people that want that and need it and it’s marketed well, is organic, any safer than conventional. Now, I think they’re both very safe. And I think they’re both very good opportunities. I don’t know that the world can be fed organically. But I definitely think there’s a place in this world for both of them has to be.
Trevor Williams
Yeah, that’s something that I honestly had no clue about. I thought that I mean, most farms were either organic or conventional. But as I’ve done this podcast, most people that are growing organic, it’s only a small fraction of their farm like they’re like you guys there. They have 1000 acres, but only 200 that is organic. And so I mean, what was kind of inspiration but behind kind of growing a small section of organic produce.
Really, it’s customer demand. I mean organics, like I said, well marketed and there’s people that want that we like there’s certain items that we only do organically, organic spinach, organic kale, organic fennel. I do fennel, conventionally and organically. I do certain things both ways. But there’s your Things I only do organically. The problem with organics and when the wind when winter gets weak because California actually does have a winter, not a not a real abrasive winter. But when things get days get shorter and weather gets colder. fertilizers do not react, they didn’t begin in a cold soil. And it’s just it’s kind of like, it’s kind of like what you do after you harvest something you put in your fridge and slow it down, because it’s trying to decay, you need heat, and you need all those things in the soil to make things work. So you can’t we can’t farm organically year round, and we can’t farm everything we do organically completely and solely. So we do both because we have to be consistent because the consumer needs wants to be consistently supplied.
Trevor Williams
Oh, yeah. I mean, that’s one thing. That’s a huge struggle that I’ve also heard a lot about, I mean, consumers are wanting great produce 20 473 65. But of course, you can grow all that produce 20 473 65. I mean, even in states like California and Florida, where you can grow it for a decent amount of the year, you’ve also got some periods where you can’t so it’s an ongoing struggle, I can assume.
I agree. Yep. It is in and we do a pretty good job of it. But, but there’s always hurdles in front of us for sure. But But yeah, I think that that relationship back to your question, the relationship between consumers and farmers is only getting better. We also participate in a farm day. Santa Barbara County Farm day, we started it a couple of years ago. And we’re big, big participants of it. And it we it’s a way for the general public, no connection to ag to come out, see what we do, how we do it, look at the equipment we do. Because there’s so many food safety hurdles, and food security, and things that we have to abide by that you can’t just have the general public out there walking through your fields any day. But if you plan for it, you bring them in, we give them free vegetables, we let them ask questions. And it’s happening this September. And it happens every year, once on a Saturday for four to six hours. And then they go around to all the different farms. There’s like 15 Farms in our area that are all participating. It’s just a way for the public to get around and see. transplanting is one part of Ag us especially grower than the go down and see a strawberry grower and realize that every strawberry has to be hand picked. And they go wow. They don’t actually think about that until you see it. Pretty impressive.
Trevor Williams
Oh, I bet So yeah, I mean, that’s so cool to hear what what’s the response been like from those days where they actually come out, and they can actually see how their foods grown? how its pig, how its harvest. So what’s the response been like?
They love it. They love it. They bring their kids. We get people last year we had I think two years ago, before the pandemic, we had 300 visitors. And we were one of the more just because of the same thing, like we were talking about with the social media were more colorful stop. So they’re like obey farms or the Oh, we were out there more in social media. So they kind of know who we are even locally, they’ll know who we are. So let’s go there. And then the fact that we’re giving away free vegetables, they’re like, yeah, that’s a given we’ll come by. So it’s just it’s kind of like a farmers market without having to pay for on that Saturday. And then we can show them kohlrabi. They may not get that in their local grocery store and say, Hey, this is what it is. This is how you cook it. It’s pretty cool. Yeah, that’s
awesome. I love farm days and stuff like that. I think they’re super cool. I mean, they’re great. Not only a great, I mean outing for your family, but it’s also a great educational tool. I mean, people can literally see and learn straight from the farmer instead of Google and kind of ask any questions they might have.
No, I agree. And then and then as you and I know, anything you Google had, not to bring politics into anything, but everything has a spin. But if you talk to the grower, he’s a real guy. He’s just trying to make living like you are. And he tried to poison you, because he feeds his family, from every vegetable in that field is just like he’s trying to feed you. So honestly, we usually it’s very positive. I’ve never really had a bad experience talking to the public at those events. But if somebody is critical or questionable, they usually turn around pretty quickly when they realize that we’re just real people just trying to do the right thing. Yeah,
Trevor Williams
like you said earlier, I mean, that person, the person communication is really key where you’re not trying to be I mean, you’re just being honest and open with them, I think is huge. And yeah, I think that’s awesome. I agree. I agree. That’s so cool. Jeff. Well, I think this has been awesome. If people want to learn more about babe farms, you guys are active on Instagram, your website, where else can they go to kind of see what you guys are doing?
Yeah, that’s social, all social media appropriate, or platforms that you’re discussing Instagram, we know Facebook, where we have a website, they pay for specialist Comm. It’s it’s, it’s if you ever have a question, or you want to see who we are, that’s that’s how you can see us. But that’s probably the best way and then you get the visual. It’s amazing what you can see. Just by searching things for sure. Yeah,
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