Did you know there are more than 50 farms in the area that you can buy directly from?
Sure, farmers markets are cool, but so is driving up to a farm and buying your produce a few feet from where it was grown. The Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau has been maintaining a map for residents of where they can find these farms. It’s been updated every year for the past 41 years, and focuses primarily on Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties, with a few farms in Monterey and San Benito counties. Just a few years ago, they even developed an interactive mobile app version. We spoke with Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau Executive Director Jess Brown about this cool local farm guide.
What inspired this map?
JESS BROWN: What has really changed over the past 41 years is the strong interest in the public in dealing directly with the growers. People want to know exactly where their food comes from. Forty-one years ago the farmers market hadn’t really started. This was at the forefront of this public interaction directly with the farmer. Slowly farmers markets started sprouting up. It was a slow process. Now we have several farmers markets within the map.
What kinds of foods are available to get fresh off the farm?
It depends on the season. In the spring there’s this big surge for berries because people know that those are being picked fresh, and some of the places have “U-Pick” operations where you can go out and actually pick yourself. Of course when you get to the fall, people want to go where the pumpkins are. You move into Christmas and there’s Christmas trees. Apples are a big deal here. Row crops, meaning vegetables, are a big deal. We have egg farms. You could create a menu—breakfast, lunch and dinner—from those farms. Probably the one thing that we don’t have a lot of is livestock.
Why have farms always thrived here?
Agriculture has always been a leading industry in this area because the cool coastal climate makes it conducive to grow a lot of the crops, like Brussels sprouts, artichokes, cauliflower, apples. You don’t find a lot of the stone fruits like peaches—you might find those in Santa Clara. So there’s a wide variety on the map.