Meet The Farmers- Interview with Michael from JR Organics farm

Posted by Claire C on

The Rodriguez Ranch started as a 55 acre conventional farm in Escondido,California. From there, the family managed to become CCOF certified in 1985. Michael's uncle Joe became the 15th farmer  growing organic certified in the region. Since then the family have committed to sustainable organic farming practices. We had a chance to interview Michael, a fourth generation farmer in the Rodriguez family who handles the current operation of the farm. 

1. What is the history of your farm? What inspired you to become a farmer?
Our great grandfather bought the farm in 1960 since then we have grown commercially for the LA markets. In 1986 the farm transitioned into a certified organic farm. We also changed our supplier accounts to organic. I eventually took over the farm and became a fourth generation farmer in the family. I didn’t see myself going into farming at first but it just happened that I  ended up doing it.
2. What are your farming practices? What are your neighboring farms’ farming practices?
We are CCOF certified farm. We follow very strict guidelines and requirements to become certified organic. We have yearly visits that examines our practices and tools around the farm to make sure that we follow the guidelines. They also take samples of our produce to ensure that they are organic. Our neighbors includes a citrus farm and flower farm.
3. What does a typical week look like for you? 
A lot of work. We're present in 10 different farmers markets. I personally attend 4 of them. The other ones are being attended by some of our family members. Farming is 24/7. On Monday, we do unpacking and resorting, farmers market, sending our order sheets. On Tuesdays, we distribute the produce to CSAs and stores. Wednesdays and Thursdays we distribute to CSAs, restaurants and in the afternoon I attend farm the farmers market. Friday, we do prep work for the farmers market. On the weekends, we mostly operate the farmers markets.
4. Who is helping on the farm?
We have a few helpers around the farm but we mostly get help from the other family members.
5. What is the most difficult challenge your farm is facing right now?
The amount of labor it involves. Also the cost: labor cost, and water cost. It is also very hard to find the right people for the job because of how difficult the work is.
6. Share one thing that you are most proud of about your farm.
Our farm has been extremely focused on the quality and taste of four produce for generations. The legacy, continuing to continue growing produce in an organic way. My grandfather still lives at the farm but they don't really get involved in the business side anymore.
7. Share one thing you like the most about being a farmer.
Providing an honest service. Being organic and staying true to the organic way. Some farmers tend to claim organic but they’re not certified and doesn’t truly follow organic practices and guidelines. In 1985 when CCOF certification started, my uncle became the 15th farmer to be certified organic in the region. We strive for perfection even though it can be difficult.
8. What do you wish most people knew more about sustainable farming?
I wishes that people knew how much time and effort it takes to grow organic produce. A single strawberry can be eaten within an hour but it takes months and months to grow them. Some produce grows within 30 days (radish, turnip, salad greens) and some has to grow up to 160 days (strawberries, winter squash).
9. What is the best way for people to support your farm?
Buy from our website and stands. Buy our produce. If people continue to buy from us, we'll be able to continue to offer the best quality of produce.
10.Where do you see your farm in the next 5 years? 10 years?
Hopefully we can continue to do what we're currently doing. With the new restrictions and the farmers market closing it's hard to tell.

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