Capay Organic is a second-generation family farm located in the Coastal Range's Capay Valley, 90 miles northeast of San Francisco. But, you don't have to drive all that way because they bring the farm to you; Farm Fresh to You delivers fresh, organic produce to your doorstep and is also conveniently located in the Ferry Building on the Embarcadero. The Capay Organic and Farm Fresh to You websites convey feelings of family, of a commitment to organic produce, and of a deep interest in sustainability. However, there is another quality that is markedly unique to Capay Organic, which is their partnership with individuals. Thaddeus Barsotti spoke with me over the phone about this special connection.
Martin Barnes wanted to start a Farmer’s Market in Davis, and then realized it needed to be filled with food. He and his wife Kathleen Barsotti decided to grow it themselves. They founded Capay Fruits and Vegetables in 1976. As hippies, they weren’t attracted to the newfangled tools that farms were using and decided to go natural. “They were the first organic farm in that area” said Thaddeus, “before the term organic was known.” They began with 20 acres of land, which has now grown into around 300 acres, but Kathleen's sons have maintained Capay Organic's core values through the generations and the growth of the farm.
The idea of a Farmers Market-like contact between farmer and consumer, a connection with individuals, was important to Kathleen. When Kathleen became the sole proprietor of the farm, after she and Martin divorced, she continued the trend of a special kind of contact between farm and client. She started Farm Fresh to You in 1992, a unique way to connect with individuals by delivering fresh, organic produce to homes and offices. Thaddeus said that Capay Organic cares about community and organic food, and is also deeply “interested in bringing agriculture to society as a whole.” This notion of not simply transporting organic food, but transporting the whole field of agriculture alongside, persists into many other aspects of the farm.
One such instance is the Farm News, which is released weekly. It was started by Kathleen Barsotti and is now continued by her son Thaddeus. The Farm News is available on the Capay Organic website; it updates readers about goings-on at the farm. It allows the consumers, who may even be sitting in an office building in the middle of San Francisco, a glimpse into the world of the farm. Readers can learn about the weather on the farm, tomato irrigation, how the veggies are doing, and peach pruning. “It’s about feeding people, but it’s also about people connecting with the land,” said Thaddeus.
Kathleen and Martin had four sons; Che, Noah, Thaddeus, and Freeman. Growing up, the boys enjoyed going to farmer's markets and talking with people. When Kathleen passed away from breast cancer at the age of 51, the boys took on the responsibility of not only managing the farm, but maintaining the farm’s devotion to a relationship with individuals. The Farm News is delivered in Farm Fresh to You produce boxes and available online. The Capay Organic family has also used new technologies to connect with individuals, even as the farm has grown; there is now a Farm Fresh to You Facebook page, a Capay Organic Facebook page, a Farm Fresh to You Twitter page, and a Capay Organic Twitter page. These pages are a perfect display of Capay Organic's close connection with individuals; exchanges of scrumptious recipes, comments about delicious deliveries of fruits and veggies and questions about the farm form an open communication between Capay Organic and the people who love to eat (and cook) their produce.
Capay Organic forms this bond not only so that they can know their consumers, but also because they believe it is important for consumers to know their farmers. When asked to define the term organic, Thaddeus said it has now become “legally an amendment based standard. When it originally started it had more connotations [such as] food justice, treating workers with respect, planting things that taste good, and biodiversity,” things that are no longer required for something to be called organic. Capay Organic follows not only the legal standards in place, which prevent the use of certain chemicals in the field, but also “go beyond that,” according to Thaddeus. Capay Organic focuses on the original intentions of the organic movement, in particular, sustainability; sustainable so that the land can continue to thrive and “every generation of children can feed themselves,” said Thaddeus. According to Thaddeus, this is why it is also important for consumers to know their farmer. Not all farms go above and beyond like Capay Organic, but it is important for consumers to support the exceptional ones that do in order to keep the land and the produce that comes out of it healthy for many generations to come.
One way to get to know Capay Organic is to attend one of the farm's events, such as the upcoming farm tour and the tomato tasting. The next farm tour date is June 11, 2011, where, according to the website, participants can come see where their food is grown, pick fresh, ripe fruit off the vine and eat it right there, take a ride on a John Deere tractor, have a picnic, listen to live music from local bands or stop in at the craft tent, where kids can make creative art projects to bring home.
For tomato lovers, Capay Tomato Saturday is coming up on July 9th; participants are invited to come to the farm to taste 8 different varieties of tomatoes, enjoy live music and dancing, hop on a tractor tram, walk around the farm, and sample delicious food, local wine and beer. For those who love it too much to leave, the farm is even allowing people to camp overnight in the orchard. The profits from Capay Tomato Saturday will benefit the Kathleen Barsotti Non-Profit for Sustainable Agriculture.
For the future, Thaddeus hopes to be a model for other farms; he aspires to create a network of flourishing organic farms throughout the nation. Capay Organic is looking at the big picture; they hope to use their knowledge of how to run a farm, organically, sustainably and in connection with individuals and teach other farmers how to do the same. Capay Organic is extending their healthy roots to individuals and farms and sharing their delicious, sustainable, organic produce and knowledge with all.