Since 1969, Moira Burke and her family have raised beef cattle on their family farm, west of Dixon in Solano County.Â Here, her sons grew up doing farm chores, raising animals and dining on â€œgrass fatâ€ beef, as it was then called.Â Family and friends raved about this delicious â€œgrass-fatâ€ beef they served at their table.
Moiraâ€™s passion for both plants and animals inspired the business name of â€œAgricola: flora et faunaâ€.Â Emphasizing sustainable production, Agricola produces specialty tree crops, grass/clover hay and high quality grass fed (and finished) beef.Â Additionally, the farm facilitates wildlife habitat with native plantings and nest boxes. Continue reading ‘Agricola: flora et fauna – Profile’
For this week’s market report Bill Fujimoto stopped by the Oliveto kitchen.Â While the Oliveto kitchen is not exactly a farmers’ market, Chef Paul Canales sources some extraordinary produce directly from smaller local outfits that he thought Bill might get a kick out of.Â Most of these items will appear on the menu the same day they are delivered including some fine arugula rapini from Knoll Farms in Brentwood, fava beans from Star Route Farms in Bolinas, and watercress from the passionate nuts at Sausalito Springs.
Meanwhile, Bill tells us that he’s seen the future…and it is full of cherries.
Los Bermejos, Listan Negro Tinto MaceraciÃ³n CarbÃ³nica,
Lanzarote â€“ Canary Islands, Spain 2008
There is always something fun and interesting in the bag when Keven from Farm Wine Imports stops by. Today, as usual, he brought an assortment of great wines, but the one that stood out as the most unique and truly memorable was a red wine from the island of Lanzarote in the Canary Islands.
As you can see from the picture above, this special place is one of the most picturesque grape-growing regions in the world. Each individual vine is planted in crater-like holes in the black volcanic soil and surrounded by a semi-circle stone wall to protect it from the wind. Not exactly the vineyard scene most people who have visited Tuscany or Napa Valley might expect, but grapes have been grown here for centuries and it is a true oenological and ecological treasure. Continue reading ‘Tasting Notes: Los Bermejos’
Yesterday, Bill & Paul hit the Derby Street market just in time to see all the purple asparagus vanish.Â No bother.Â There was plenty else to ogle including ‘crazy’ cabbage from Full Belly Farm and beautiful red romaine lettuce from Riverdog Farm. Â Also some massive goose eggs from Arthur Davis of Ludwig Avenue Farm and a few tips from Chef Canales on how to poach them.
From this point on it only gets better with berry season just around the corner and stone fruits soon after.
Another week closer to spring and another visit to the farmers’ market with Chef Paul Canales and Bill Fujimoto.Â This week, we hit the Derby Street market in Berkeley to see some truly awesome specimens of artichoke grown by the one and only Maria Catalan of Catalan Farms in Hollister.Â Paul explains how they will be used in the Oliveto kitchen & gives some good tips on what to do with those tough outer leaves.
Bill makes a case for water damage & reveals the mind-boggling fact that those baby carrots in a bag can stored up to eight months!Â Yikes.
*Maria Catalan’s stuffed artichokes will be on the menu through this weekend.
Pamela Barnes stopped by this weekend to offer us some of the huge, beautiful Jerusalem artichokes she grows in her home garden in El Sobrante. Â Chef Canales says these are some of the best he has ever seen.Â Pamela’s sunchokes are currently being served in a salad with aged Provolone cheese and Meyer lemon.Â Artichokes also abound, and appear throughout the menu.Â The beginning of choke season corresponds nicely with the tail end of Dungeness crab season, making for a brief but delicious window of time in the Oliveto kitchen.
Keeping true to our mission of shining the spotlight on the talent & moxie of all of our suppliers, we’ll take this opportunity to also give Pamela a plug: not only a master gardener and wallpaper expert, Pamela is also a playwright and lyricist.Â Her play, Josephine, the Pirate Queen, will have a run at The Knox Center for the Performing Arts, on the Contra Costa College Campus, July 7 -10, 2010.
Last June we were troubled, as many were, to learn the news that Bill Fujimoto would be leaving Berkeley’s Monterey Market.Â Bill has been a friend and supporter of Oliveto from day one, and to many restaurants. More importantly, Bill has been a virtual lifeline for many small farmers in northern California and beyond. Â We were anxious around the possibility of losing such an influential voice and presence in the East Bay food community and eager to keep in contact with both Bill and his wife Judy once it became apparent that a suitable arrangement with Monterey Market would not be forthcoming.
The Knolls bought a small, weedy plot of land in 1979 in a move to get away from the suburbs and into a more biodynamic and rural life. The couple immediately planted fruit trees, but as they were new to farming and didnâ€™t have anybody telling them what to do or how to do it, there was no income to get them from the end of fall through to the summer harvest. For quite a while, both Rick and Christie worked part time in the city to make ends meet. Then, in 1989, they both grew fed up with the back-and-forth and Rick suggested moving to full-time farming. Kristie remembers saying to him, â€œIâ€™ll do it if you figure out something for us to sell between November and June!â€ They began planting green garlic, which to this day is one of their popular crops. Kristie also recounts that in the early 1990â€™s, rosemary sales increased and allowed them to do what they really love and farm full time.
Length of Relationship with Oliveto
Over 10 years. Oliveto owner Bob Klein says with a smile on his face, â€œthere was a brief vacation, but weâ€™re back together again!â€
The unincorporated county between Byron and Brentwood
The Knolls keep their farm in production year-round to preserve soil quality and provide year-round work for their employees.
Green garlic (6 mo./yr), rosemary (year round- â€œwe never take a break!â€), and figs (4-6 mo./yr).
Leafy winter greens (rapini, arugula, chard etc.), blossoming fruit trees (apricots, peaches, nectarines, plums), varietal artichokes, carrots, potatoes.
Eduardo, the Tairwaâ€™-Knoll Farms driver, makes his regular delivery route through Brentwood, Orinda, Lafayette, Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco, and Mountain View, delivering to Oliveto as well as other notables like Acme, Chez Panisse, Dopo, Flour + Water, Boulevard, Perbacco, Nopa, Greenâ€™s, Rainbow Grocery, Veritable Vegetable, Greenleafe, and Whole Foods.
Community Supported Agriculture
Knoll Farms provides weekly drop-offs to CSAâ€™s in Antioch, Walnut Creek, and Lafayette. They pick to order, working hard to supply fresh and exciting seasonal produce to each memberâ€™s basket.
San Francisco Ferry Building (Saturday)
Hand-picking. Knoll Farms currently employs 12 farm-hands, as well as a truck-driver, priding itself on providing reliable year-round work in a healthy pesticide-free environment.
Weather, though the farmâ€™s diversity translates to a more stable outputâ€” Kristie explains that whatâ€™s â€œbadâ€ weather for one thing might be â€œgreatâ€ weather for another! Diversity and integrity, though, can sometimes be a management nightmare. Keeping track of everything from farm to market is challenging! Sometimes things come in a Â¼ lb Ziploc, sometimes a 1 lb Ziploc, sometimes in a 10 lb box. Workers have to know how much to pick and portionâ€”and when, everything has to get into the right box and onto the right truck, and then to the right drop-off. With a small staff and the inescapable ups and downs of daily life, â€œWe go crazy trying to keep everything straight, and we do make mistakes,â€ Kristie laughs, â€œBut we try to keep people happy. Nobody told us what to do or how to do it when we were getting started, so we are constantly learning.â€
Philosophy and Principles
According to Kristie, â€œWe both like eating, and we like the idea of growing food for people. I make dinner most nights of the week, and my kitchen window looks out on the fig orchards. I love where I live.â€ In addition to the beauty of farm life, Rick and Kristie are both dedicated to doing their part to combat the industrial food system that is slowly killing us. As an expert in organic chemistry and biodynamic farming, Rick knows that â€œthe cornernstone of our business is the soil.â€ It makes sense that what weâ€™re planting in our soil is going to absorb whatever is in there and be eaten. Kristie explains that â€œour health depends on the health of what we eat, and you canâ€™t grow healthy food without healthy soil. Part of the problem is television that tells us what to eat, and as a result people are obsessed with cheap food! The problem is: how healthy are we if our gut doesnâ€™t have the microbes we need? People arenâ€™t following their common sense.â€
â€œWeâ€™re smallâ€”we can do a better job. Weâ€™re in production year-roundâ€”we might not be in kick-ass production, but we keep our ground coveredâ€”which means rather than losing soil, weâ€™re building it! Many farms out here sit idle Nov-March, they put herbicides on the ground and keep it bare which leads to soil erosion. We also supply work year-round for our workers.â€
I am always excited about turning people onto good food. I always try to bring something to market that people might not immediately think looks good, for example rapini. I steam it for a while and then we cut â€˜em up and toss it with olive oil and salt and serve it to people at market as a sampleâ€¦ and they buy it! We have people that essentially buy shit-tons of our weeds! Itâ€™s amazing, but it tastes good and I love planting the seeds in peopleâ€™s minds for what you can do with something so simple. Simple foods are what people are supposed to be eating anyway, we were foragers before we were farmers or cooks. I like to plant seeds in peopleâ€™s minds, and though I donâ€™t always see the plant when it flowers, if you know what I mean, Iâ€™m happy to know that some people might take the ball and run with it.