During the past year, for reasons unrelated to Dogwood Coffee, I have made a number of trips to California. Until this month my time spent there has been in San Clemente, the ‘Spanish Village by the Sea’. San Clemente is the southernmost city in Orange County, an old-school California beach and surf Shangri-La that time occasionally forgets. Visits nowadays are to Aptos, an unincorporated area 9 miles south of Santa Cruz, also on the coast of the Pacific Ocean. I naturally gravitate to areas west of U.S. Route 101 and California State Route 1 – that is where the beach and the waves are. I now know that in this part of California - Monterey County and Santa Cruz County, the bounty is east of the highway.
There are 600,000 acres of farmland east of CA Highway 1 and U.S. Highway 101 in Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties. There are over 100 different crops in the ‘salad bowl of the world’ and both counties’ top crop is strawberries. Elevation here is from 0 – 750 meters; the macro-climate moderated by the Pacific Ocean. The spectrum of crops and microclimates allow for remarkable crop diversity for 2,500 operations ranging from fewer than 10 acres to over 2,000 acres. Most farmland is multi-generational family owned. Groundwater is the primary water source and there are no large irrigation districts.
For three days, most of what we ate came from farms in the 831 area code. Everything we ate tasted amazing. Especially the strawberries. We sought permission from a strawberry farmer, picked what we needed for two days and finished them so quickly I felt naughty, as if I ate a bunch of candy. They were that good – a special treat, to be taken in moderation.
I am moved by central California farms along the coast, a smaller scale than in other California agricultural regions. The perspective granted to me by this experience made me grateful for the efforts of those whom we rely on to produce coffee we roast and the vendors we use for our milk, cider, chocolate, and tea. I found myself grateful as I related all of this to the profound efforts of our wholesale customers whose commitment to local, small scale, awesome farming here in Minnesota.