Bautista Farms: A Family Affair

IMG_4259At Novo Restaurant much of the ingredients you’ll find on our menu are sourced from local farms here in our own back yard on the Central Coast. Our produce buyer, Matt Kubat, shops at local farmers’ markets five days a week to provide the freshest produce to Chef Ben (and sister restaurants, Luna Red and Robin’s.) We recently had the opportunity to talk with third generation farmer, Jacinto Bautista, son of farm owners, Manuel and Apolonia.

Manuel came to the US at fifteen years old. He arrived in Chicago and made his way to California where he found work pruning grape vineyards. He soon was able to buy his own plot of land where he originally grew peas, commercially. His wife, Apolonia, found opportunity in selling them at local farmers’ markets; something she enjoyed but also found lucrative.   As their farming business grew and new crops were added, the couple decided to transition out of commercial sales. They started focusing on selling privately to local restaurants and at farmers’ markets. This decision allowed them to pick as they grew without waste and provided steady money flow for the business.IMG_4276

Today they grow (seasonally) carrots, kale, chard, parsley, cilantro, spinach, tomatoes, snow peas, sugar peas, English peas, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and green beans. The farm is now 25 years old and family run with an additional 10 workers on the team. Jacinto handles all of the orders, the planting, growing and cultivating. They practice conventional farming, meaning they only use pesticides as a last resort and plan to be completely organic within the next 5 to 10 years. And you can bet on the freshness of any Bautista product! Most crops are harvested and sold on the same day, which gives them a much longer shelf life than grocery store-bought produce.

IMG_4314As Jacinto takes on more responsibility for the family farm, along with his two sisters, he is focusing on getting as much information out of his father’s head as possible and down on paper. “He’s been doing this for 25 years and all of his knowledge is up here,” says Jacinto. Using technology to assist the day-to-day fieldwork is clearly a tool for Jacinto’s generation of farmers. Systemizing their processes is going to allow the farm to work smarter, not harder, in the future.

And what does Jacinto speculate about the future of farming in our area? He says he’s optimistic. He believes his generation (the mid-30 something’s) care about what they eat and where their food comes from. He says with Cal Poly being so agriculturally based and with our community being especially environmentally and health conscious, farming will continue to grow in this region. As long as there IMG_4252_1continues to be a demand, local small farms will thrive.
So how can you support Bautista Farms? Take a bit of extra time to see which farmers’ markets are near your area and shop local. For excellent tasting produce, buy what’s in season. You can find Bautista Farms at 13 different farmers’ markets from Vandenburg to Paso Robles.

The following schedule is where you can find them throughout the week: