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Marsha Habib didn't set out to be a farmer. "When you're growing up in the United States, it's not one of those occupations you answer with when you get asked 'What do you want to be when you grow up?'" she says. But Habib followed her call to the crops, and she decided to start a one-woman one-acre operation. Today, that small plot has evolved into the full-blown 15-acre Oya Organics in Hollister, California.
Habib is one of 15 West Coast farmers we worked with to source 14,000 pounds of produce for our August Farmers Market flavors. She's also one of the youngest. The average age of the farmer in the U.S. is 58—and it's harder than ever to call the next generation out to the field. "Getting to learn a little bit about this world of farming is one of the most inspiring projects I've done all year," says Tyler Malek, our co-founder and head ice cream maker, who grates fresh carrots into our Carrot Cake Batter & Pralined Hazelnuts and juices fennel—bulb to frond—into our Green Fennel & Maple.
Rudy Jimenez of Green Thumb Organics and Tyler Malek of Salt & Straw Ice Cream
After visiting with Habib in Hollister, we drove south to Salinas to catch up with Rudy Jimenez, a fourth-generation farmer who's been farming since he was a little kid. As Rudy grew up, his dad told him if he didn't go to school, he'd be working in the field. But Rudy had a different plan in mind. His hometown of Salinas grows 80 percent of the country's produce, yet its residents see hardly any of it. He wanted to build a farm that allowed him to provide organic produce to his community, so he launched Green Thumb Organics Farm.
Both Marsha and Rudy are examples of how you don't need to launch a farm on huge acreage. They've managed to grow and operate diversified farms by starting out with a single acre and growing from there. "Being able to work with these small independent farms is amazing," Tyler says. "Honestly what they're doing for this country, they're changing our perspective on agriculture. And it's important, the way they cycle through crops, the complexity of the different products they're growing. It brings more flavor to our table. And for me as a chef, it brings more excitement to my creativity."