Archive for February, 2009

Blossom Bluff Orchards – Profile

blossom_bluff_500Established in 1931

Owners

Ted and Fran Loewer

Great-grandparents Daniel and Babette Lichti originally purchased thirty acres of the farm in 1931 where they lived and raised their eight children.  Their son Herb took over the farm in the 1940s.  Herb bought an adjacent piece of property and with wife Elise they raised their three children and tended the farm.  In 1980, Fran and Ted moved into their grandparents old farmhouse with their two children, Renata and Bryce.

Ted quickly made changes, both in farming and marketing practices.  He moved the farm from conventional to sustainable practices outlined by California Clean guidelines.  In 2006, Blossom Bluff was certified organic by CCOF.  Over the past twenty years, Ted raised the variety count from about twenty to over a hundred-ninety, often choosing heirloom vareities for flavor instead of durability.  He located direct outlets, including farmers markets and grocers, and Fran developed relationships with some of the Bay Area’s finest restaurants and bakeries.

Carrying the business into a fourth generation, their children, Bryce and Renata are both involved with marketing, managing accounts, &  farmers’ markets.

Seasons

Busiest months are May – September.  Sell at farmers’ markets year round.

Technology

All fruit is hand picked and packed.  No machines are used.

Challenges

Weather is a big concern for organic stone fruit growers in general.  A wet spring can be devastating for fruit durability.  On market days, the commute (3.5 hours) can be taxing.

Principles

It is important to the Loewers to keep the family farm running and work the rural/urban connection.  They love meeting the people they sell their fruit to.  The unique varieties they grow and sell interest and excite their customers. 

Community Supported Agriculture

Blossom Bluff Orchards has just started a Summer Stone Fruit CSA in partnership with T&D Willey Farms.  Email for more information: csa@tdwilleyfarms.com

Future Plans

Ted and Fran’s son Bryce recently bought his aunt’s house and property and is moving back to the farm.  Their daughter Renata lives in Berkeley and manages the storage/warehouse and employees there.

Length of Relationship with Oliveto

14 years

Location

50 acres between Reedley and Sanger along the Kings River

Crops

Over 180 varieties of fruit including peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots, pluots, apriums, persimmons, figs, pomegranates, oranges, citron, mandarins, and meyer lemons.

Organizations/Certification

CCOF

Farmers Markets

Berkeley Derby Street – Tuesday

Berkeley Downtown – Saturday

Oakland Grand Lake – Saturday

Oakland Temescal – Sunday

San Francisco Civic Center – Thursday

San Francisco Ferry Building – Saturday

Website

http://www.blossombluff.com/

Acme Bread – Profile

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Established 1983

Owner

Steve Sullivan

Sullivan became interested in baking bread 25 years ago as a busboy at Berkeley’s Chez Panisse restaurant where he worked while attending the University of California at Berkeley. He started baking bread as a serious hobby after being inspired by Elizabeth David’s cookbook “English Bread and Yeast Cookery.” At Alice Waters’ request he went on to bake bread in the Chez Panisse kitchen. In 1983 he and his wife, Suzie, opened their first—now legendary—bakery in Berkeley. In 1989 Acme built a larger wholesale facility on 9th street. In 1996 Acme opened a bakery in Mountain View in order to provide better service to the South Bay. In 2003 Acme joined the marketplace at the Ferry building in San Francisco.

Technology

Acme is an artisan bakery. Much of the work is done by hand. At the commercial facility in Berkeley, modern German-made deck ovens as well as a 1930s Spanish brick oven are used. Sullivan says, “people make the bread, not machines.”

Principles

Sullivan’s aim is to bake the best possible bread. Acme rarely advertises, allowing the product to speak for itself.

Practices

Acme strives for consistency as well as quality. Rigorous training is an essential tool for achieving this consistency. “Acme uses only organic flour and works closely with farmers in evaluating and selecting the grain varieties for its flour each year. Three shifts of bakers work around the clock, seven days a week at the Berkeley bakery in order to meet customer demand.”

“The organic flour used to make Acme’s bread is grown in Washington, Colorado, Utah and Canada, and milled in Utah. Butter and milk are purchased from Challenge Dairy, which uses hormone-free milk from California farms.”

Length of relationship with Oliveto

since 1986

Location

Berkeley, Mountain View, San Francisco

Products

20 varieties of bread

Distribution

Available at Market Hall, Andronico’s, Whole Foods, Elephant Pharmacy, Berkeley Bowl as well as their retail bakery in Berkeley. They sell directly to various restaurants throughout the bay area.

Farmers’ markets

San Francisco Ferry Building – Saturdays

Bellwether Farms – Profile

bellwether_farms_500
Established 1986

Owners

The Callahan Family

In her mid-fifties, Cindy Callahan left a career in nursing to begin tending sheep and raising lambs initially used for brush and grass control. Following the suggestion of a friend to milk the sheep turned her on to the potential of running a sheep dairy farm.

To this day Cindy assists in the delivery of nearly every lamb on their farm. Using traditional methods studied by visiting cheese makers in Italy, Cindy’s son Liam makes every pound of cheese produced by Bellwether Farms.

Seasons

Ewes are milked until the end of November and have their lambs in January and February. Cheese is made daily, year-round.

Principles

Cindy finds being around sheep and making cheese both soothing and rewarding. The sheep are pastured and always outside. No herbicides, pesticides, or artificial fertilizers are used. Cindy says, “we use the highest quality milk available to make the best cheese possible.”

Practices

The sheep of Bellwether Farms are a Northern European breed called East Friesian. They are taller than ordinary sheep and are known for their long pointed ears.

Cow’s milk comes from the Jersey cows of a nearby dairy. The milk of Jersey cows has a higher fat and protein count than that of Holsteins.

The mild temperatures of Sonoma are ideal for producing some of the richest and sweetest milk in the country.

Future plans

They have started making yogurt.

Length of relationship with Oliveto

15 years

Location

34 acres in southwestern Sonoma County between Petaluma and Bodega Bay

Products

Cow’s Milk Cheese (80% of production): Carmody, Carmody Reserve, Crescenza

Sheep’s Milk Cheese: San Andreas, Pepato

Fresh: Fromage Blanc, Crème Fraiche, Ricotta

Lambs are sold in the spring

Distribution

60% of income comes from retail sales. They also sell directly to restaurants.

Farmers’ markets

Marin – Sundays

Santa Rosa – Saturday

Davis – Saturday

Website

http://www.bellwethercheese.com/

Fresca Italia – Profile

michele_500
Established 2001

Owner

Michele Lanza

Michele moved to the U.S. in 1998. He saw an opportunity in the Bay Area market for the cheeses he had grown up with in Italy. Fresca Italia is currently a four person company who all have a passion for great cheese. Michele goes back to Italy a few times a year to find new products and foster already established connections.

Future plans

To work with small-scale producers who keep tradition alive and provide unusual, excellent products. And to continue to find more products representative of Italian culture and make them available in the bay area while retaining a commitment to personal service.

Length of relationship with Oliveto

7 years

Location

Brisbane, San Francisco County

Products

Imported cheese. Secondary products: import olives, vinegar, olive oils, pastas, truffles, cured meats, and pastry

Distribution

Restaurants and specialty food stores

Acquerello Rice – Profile

Riso grower from Oliveto Community on Vimeo.

Owners

The Rondolino family

Originally purchased in 1934, the Tenuta Columbara farm has been in the Rondolino family for three generations. Many of the structures still in use were built in the 16th century.

Principles

Producing the best rice possible, while preserving a toxin-free environment.

Practices

Under the direction of Rinaldo Rondolino, Acquerello has become certified organic with such biological introductions as herbivorous amur carp.

The rice is harvested each October and aged in temperature controlled storerooms for a minimum of one year before milling.

Location

Po River Valley, northern Italy

Products

Acquerello carnaroli arborio rice

Distribution

Worldwide

Length of relationship with Oliveto

6 years

Giusto’s Vita-Grain – Profile

guistos_vita_grain     

Established 1940

Owners

Fred and Al Giusto

Golden Crescent Health Foods was founded in 1940 by Matthew and Amelia Giusto. It was the very first health food store in California. What began as a small bakery and retail health food business eventually grew to a successful multi-faceted operation with milling, baking, packaging and warehouse facilities. They have passed the business and traditions on to their two sons, Fred and Al who have helped the company grow and have increased Giuto’s name recognition across the West United States. Using modern methods of milling and blending has enabled the Giustos to increase production without sacrificing quality.

Principles

Grains used are from the same high-quality farms year after year, so the quality of the flour is first-rate and it is also reliable.

Practices

Work with an established network of farmers who grow premium varieties of grains exclusively for Giusto’s mills. Giusto’s grains maintain nearly 100% of their nutritional value. All of Giusto’s organic flours are from their own mills and are delivered fresh (organic unbleached flours require a two-week aging and maturing period.) Milled to order, most of the grain is roller milled, stone ground or hammer milled through an air-cooled system.

Length of relationship with Oliveto

several years

Location

The bulk of the milling is done in South San Francisco. Although they do operate one mill in Utah.

Products

Flour

Secondary products: pancake mix, scone mix, baking chocolate, cocoa, spices, sea salts, oils. They also create specialized flours to suit unique customer needs.

Organizations/ Certification

Certified Organic by QAI

Distribution

Nationwide

Website

www.giustos.com

Mr. Espresso – Profile

Established 1978

Owner

Carlo Di Ruocco and his family; wife Marie-Francoise, sons John and Luigi, and daughter Laura.

“We at Mr. Espresso remain committed to bringing you the best of this Old World tradition. We encourage our customers to take care, take time, and take pleasure in our coffees.”

Carlo’s love affair with espresso coffee goes back to his hometown of Salerno, Italy. Schooled and trained as an electrical engineer, Carlo worked for a coffee roasting company at first only to make pocket money. Unhappy as an electrical engineer, however, he became a full-time protégé of the proprietor of the company, a master coffee roaster. He learned bean selection and blending and, most important, roasting with oak wood. He worked in Paris for several years before eventually making his way to the United States, where he started a business importing and selling espresso machines out of his home in Alameda. People asked him where they could buy great coffee beans to use in their machines. Carlo put two and two together and realized there was a need for a local company that made fine espresso. He went back to Italy to hone his skills and familiarize himself with current coffee business practices. In the early days of Mr. Espresso, Carlo supplemented his income by working for an elevator company.

Mr. Espresso has since grown into a thriving business, now with an established countrywide reputation. Carlo, Marie-Francoise, and the next generation of the Di Ruocco family work together in the Oakland showroom and roasting facility to ensure that what they began thirty years ago will endure.

Technology

Mr. Espresso roasts its coffee in traditional old roasting machines fueled with oak wood. Mr. Espresso blends beans only after each varietal has been roasted individually and brought to its fullest flavor.

Principles

Contrary to popular belief, espresso does not mean quick, or “express.” Rather, the word refers to the fact that this densely flavored brew is made “expressly” for one person. It is crafted to be a refined expression of the essence of coffee itself.

Practices

Carlo and John choose all the beans at Mr. Espresso. Both were trained in Italy where the bean selection process uses espresso instead of an infused coffee in the tasting process. This method aims to achieve a rounder, milder balance in the finished product. Additionally, they travel overseas frequently to monitor bean quality and stay current with the world coffee market.

Length of relationship with Oliveto

Since almost the beginning

Location

Near Jack London Square in Oakland

Products

Coffee

Organization/Certification

CCOF and Fair Trade Certified

Distribution

Restaurants and hotels; some retail

Monterey Fish Market – Profile

Established 1979

Owners

Paul Johnson, Joan Steele, Tom Worthington

Paul Johnson began as a chef in Berkeley who got into the fish distribution business. He started by selling to a number of restaurants. Tom Worthington joined the business in 1980.

Challenges

Sustainability. Unreliable fish stock.

Principles

They enjoy working with restaurants and watching chefs from different cultural backgrounds approach/prepare the same product. The believe strongly in sustainability and want a healthy ocean for future generations.

Practices

They only buy from fisherman who catch their products in a responsible manner. They don’t just sell fish, they write, lecture, and educate. They aim to be more than “just” a fishmonger. They assist fleets of trolling vessels in converting to hook and line fishing which is a much cleaner method. Employees are involved in all facets of the seafood industry. They give priority to hiring people who have previously been involved in some facet of the culinary world. Consultations happen frequently with a diverse group of industry leaders such as representatives from National Marine Fisheries, National Fisheries and Fisherman’s Associations. This network also includes environmental activists, educational and health experts as well as celebrated chefs.

Length of relationship with Oliveto

several years

Location

Wholesale: Pier 33, San Francisco Retail: 1582 Hopkins Street, Berkeley

Products

Seafood from wild sources, nothing is farmed.

Organizations/Certification

HACCP compliant

All seafood comes from certified waters which are tested by the appropriate state and local health agencies weekly.

Distribution

Wholesale and retail as well as a number of restaurants.

Website

http://www.montereyfish.com/index.htm

Jones Rabbit Farm – Profile

Established 1971

Owners

Willis and Priscilla Jones

Willis started raising rabbits in San Mateo in a friend’s backyard. Willis’ grandfather raised rabbits, so it is part of his family tradition. When he retired, he moved to Santa Rosa. In 1981, the man who processed Willis’ rabbits abruptly went out of business, leaving Willis with 300 rabbits he needed to bring to market. So, he decided to start his own plant.

Seasons/Cycles

March – June the rabbits do well and breed. In the heat of summer (July – August) and the cold of winter (November – February) the rabbits do not breed well.

Why are you in raising rabbits? Philosophy/Principles

Willis and Priscilla both enjoy being around animals even though they are demanding and take a lot of care and attention.

Uniqueness/Strategic Advantages

The Jones raise the California White breed which are known for their bulk and meat. Each rabbit has its own pen. Four licensed meat inspectors work at their processing plant, bringing a great deal of knowledge and experience to the work at the plant. They are the only Californian rabbit processing plant north of San Francisco.

Length of Relationship with Oliveto

5 years

Location

2 acres in Santa Rosa

Main Business

They own and operate a meat processing plant where they slaughter rabbits and poultry on Saturdays. Secondary business: Raising rabbits

Distribution

Bay Area restaurants

Magruder Ranch – Profile

Established 1973

Owner

Mac Magruder

In the family for five generations, Mac Magruder’s mother grew up on the ranch and Mac’s father grew up in Mississippi, studied as a banker, and then went into the Navy before he married Mac’s mother and took up ranching.

Mac graduated from the University of Washington in 1976 with a degree in sculpture, a profession which he seriously considered pursuing full-time before returning to the ranch. Mac’s father had a substantial pear orchard, but Mac decided on a different route and devoted his energy to cattle.

The prospect of raising cattle the right way held his interest. He found that customers/restaurants were interested in and supportive of what he was doing, which he found affirming.

Seasons

Calves are typically born in the last winter or early spring, but Mac is beginning to calve in the fall as well. January – March are slow months for slaughtering.

Challenges

Getting the public to understand that without ranching, we will no longer have open space. Getting the public to understand that you are what you eat. That it is in everyone’s best interest for those who eat beef to eat beef from cattle raised in a healthy manner.

Principles

Mac employs a controlled, rotational grazing system, which is a sustainable way to graze. The idea is to take responsibility for the land. He does not use any hormones or antibiotics.

Practices

Mac markets cows of different ages. The taste of cow varies with age.

Length of relationship with Oliveto

2 years at time of post

Location

Potter Valley, Mendocino Country

Products

Cattle – 450 head

Secondary products: hill hogs – 100 head

Distribution

Restaurants, individuals who have storage for large cuts