Love Apple Farms, Santa Cruz, CA – Lovely Farm on the Mountains
When my family and I planned to dine at the 2* Michelin Manresa (my post on that meal soon) earlier this June, I insisted that we must book a tour of the farm that grows the beautiful produce for this restaurant and that is Love Apple Farms, about a 15-20 minute drive from Manresa or about 1 hour and 15-40 minutes from the center of San Francisco.
We met first the farm’s Garden Manager, Sarah who was gracious to guide us through the field on that hot late afternoon while the head farmer and co-owner, Cynthia Sandberg was tending to the newly acquired property about 10 minutes away from where we were. Sarah informed us that Love Apple Farms uses a combination of biodynamic techniques and organic techniques to raise their produce.
We walked through (and ate a few items) of the farm’s gorgeous vegetables and fruits that were currently growing. Some of the plants we saw were tall mustard plants flowering, intensely floral varieties of lavender with honey bees buzzing around for its sweet nectar. A particular type of arugula that’s spicier and delicate looking compared to the ones that most of us are used to seeing. Thickets of rhubarb were burgeoning from the ground. Several types of chile peppers were starting to fruit and wee zucchini were transitioning from flower to the vegetable. Unfortunately, we’re too early to see the famous tomatoes that Ms. Sandberg is known for growing.
However, we did try wonderful small strawberries that were warmed in the sun and tasted like warm strawberry pie. The rainbow of carrots were divine to eat. I have never tasted a fresher, sweeter, crisper carrot in my life. I finally seen and tasted the stevia plant in person – and it tasted super sweet in a good way.
I can taste the blood, sweat, and tears to produce these beautiful, delicious fruits and vegetables grown on this mountainous area.
By the time we were curious about the farm’s animals, Ms. Sandberg joined us and told her how she started this farm. Ms. Sandberg grew heirloom tomatoes out of her own garden at home in the 1990s. She sells tomatoes every spring, and teaches popular classes on a wide variety of topics including growing tomatoes from seed, building tomato cages, and gardening in containers.
Eventually, she met Mr. Kinch when she dined at his restaurant for her birthday. They had a conversation and he mentioned that he would love to have a farm that would grow produce for him. She proposed that she could do it. In essence, that’s how their working relationship started and how Love Apple Farms came to existence.
One particular area where there were a brood of hens, we saw two goats hanging around with them. We met one of the farm’s beautiful goats named Totes. Ms. Sandberg’s farm interns named that goat one summer because they said that goat is “totes awesome.” This particular goat seemed to enjoy being near people, as it wasn’t shy.
We did drive down to the new property adjacent to see their heritage breed pigs, the Gloucestershire Old Spot. These six large animals were happily squealing and waddling in their mud pools. One of them shook itself off from the mud like a dog would, making me fear that if I stepped any closer I would be covered in mud – and I’m dressed up for dinner at Manresa with the exception of my shoes. It’s hard to believe that these large yet cute animals were only 6 months old when we seen it.
Our final stop was to see the expansion of the tomato field (seen here). Ms. Sandberg was experimenting which types of soil would work best with the tomatoes she’s trying to grow on this particular plot.
It was a great experience to see the farm that I’ve heard of for the past several years. It’s a beautiful, serene farm that grows amazing fruits and vegetables with the now expanding program of raising animals (if I recalled correctly, she’s thinking of raising rabbits). If I could be neighbors to this farm, I would be a happily convert to vegetarianism.
To view more of my photos of this visit, please scroll through the slideshow below (or click through my Flickr set):
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