At a Central Coast farm, owner Yves Julien (left photo) and his wife combine their love of quality food and French lifestyle to sell both gourmet olive oils and fine, French antiques at Olea Farm in Templeton, Calif.
Everyone takes note when there’s a food recall. There are so many these days, it seems like nothing is safe to eat. Lettuce, spinach, bean sprouts, milk, cheese, beef, chicken, shrimp, peanut butter, almonds, cantaloupe and even water sold to the public has at various times caused illnesses and deaths. It’s hard to have confidence in your food sources, making many Californians venture into growing their own foods on a limited basis.
There are currently around 81,400 farms operating in California–less than 4% of the national total–and a surprising fact, considering the population of the state comprises over 8% of population. The truth is that California and the U.S. exports large sums of food, helping to feed the world.
Before you rush into farming as a commercial venture, take note that less than 24% of California farms produced commodity sales totaling $100,000 or more–compared with the national average of 17%, it’s still a venture with no guarantee of that you’ll strike it rich. Many farmers grow up in the farming business or live in farm areas where farming is the primary industry. Related to farming are a host of degrees you can obtain at the nation’s top agriculture schools such as UC Davis, where farmers and vintners seek out the latest information on farming methods and crop yields. The data that comes out of this school is so valuable, it helps wineries win gold medals for their products.
For most Californians who are not self-sufficient, it’s simple to begin growing a few trees that will yield healthy fruits for your own consumption and to share with neighbors. Oranges, lemons, grapefruit, apples and avocados all do exceedingly well in California. I have a lemon tree that has produced fruit for 40 years, according to the house records. It is never fertilized, watered, or anything else. It is a miracle tree! And when an avocado tree played out after 25 years, a seedling from that tree began producing avocados within 2 years. It is young and only produces around 30 avocados annually, but may produce more if I fertilized it and pay more attention. For me, the greatest joy in having a few foods in the yard to pick and eat is that I don’t worry about them making me sick, and the food is free! I don’t use chemicals on my trees and plants.
Through my personal yard experiences I’ve determined that I don’t want to be a farmer, but my interest in eating healthy has pushed me into learning about California farms, produce and products. There are many quality, organic farms in California you can seek out to try to buy better foods.
California Certified Organic Farmers based in Santa Cruz (ccof.org) produces online lists of certified farmers who produce everything from milk and beef to vegetables, fruits and herbs. You can have products shipped from many of these great resources, or head out on a road trip and drive direct to many farms.