Santa Maria Sun / Eats
America's top chefs choose Santa Maria's Babe Farms for fresh specialty vegetables any time of year
WENDY THIES SELL
Many of the finest restaurants in the United States and Canada count on Santa Maria’s Babé Farms for year-round, high-end produce.
This isn't where you'll find the ordinary.
Babé Farms grows and hand-harvests 80 unique vegetable varieties—some almost too beautiful to eat.
We’re talking nine different colored radishes, including slim white icicles, red-and-white finger-shaped French breakfast, even spicy purple ninjas; eight kinds of baby carrots in a rainbow of colors; spectacularly spiraled chartreuse Romanesco; golf-ball sized, purple, green, orange, or white baby cauliflower; striped, gold, and red beets, ranging in size from baby to jumbo; plus kohlrabi, turnips, bok choy, celery-root—and that’s not all.
“We do a lot of things. We do spring mix and salad blends, but we’ve always prided ourselves in being the boutique niche grower,” said Babé Farms CEO and co-owner Jeff Lundberg.
Babé Farms ships out an average of 200,000 cases of produce each month from the Santa Maria Valley.
Most of the farm’s customers are brokers, with the final destination being farm-to-table, white-tablecloth restaurants from Los Angeles to New York.
Central Coast restaurants that feature Babé Farms produce on their menus include: Far Western Tavern, Ballard Inn, Root 246, The Willows, Brothers Restaurant at the Red Barn, Trattoria Grappolo, Ember, Lido at Dolphin Bay Resort, and Artisan.
Some out-of-area chefs have visited Babé Farms and walked through their fields to hand select produce for their restaurant.
“We want the chefs to come see us. It gives them an understanding of how difficult it is to give consistent vegetables 52 weeks a year, which is what we pride ourselves in,” Lundberg said.
Nipomo-based chef Tracy Labastida, owner of Field to Table Catering, is considered one of the top wedding caterers from San Francisco to Los Angeles, with major restaurant owners and NFL players among his clients.
“I use Babé Farms in every event,” Labastida said as we walked through a block of baby cauliflower in Babé Farms’ field along North Blosser Road.
“I’m really about presentation, so I like the variety of color. I use baby purple cauliflower a ton! Or I’ll use Romanesco and gold beets because I can get them really big. In normal grocery stores, you don’t always see a gold beet. The gold beet is really, really special. I also really like the blonde frisée. I’ve done a honey truffle vinaigrette on it and it’s amazing! Kholrabis are really good for slaws, and I like all of their carrots. Some are actually a radish, but they present as a carrot.”
Labastida said that having a grower that he can count on to produce such an impressive variety year-round is extremely important, because he plans his wedding menus far in advance. He knows that Babé Farms will have what his discriminating clientele expects.
Why is Babé Farms able to consistently grow nearly 100 different products, every week of the year? The climate.
The Santa Maria Valley is considered one of the most consistently mild climates in all of North America—ideal weather for growing specialty produce.
“We have an ocean influence, 8 miles from the ocean. We have a very mild weather pattern, and in the summer we have the wind that keeps things mild, normally,” Lundberg explained. “And in the wintertime we have 13 inches of rainfall, on average. Most of the time we have a fairly consistent weather pattern.”
Another important factor is his crew.
“We have the best people working for us, some for 25 years! I’m proud of the people that work for us, and the quality that we put into every box. If it’s in a box with a Babé label, you’re not going to be disappointed.”
Babé Farms is proud to be longtime stewards of the land, employing sustainable and organic farming practices, in addition to a strong commitment to food safety.
“Every inch of the ground is so important,” Lundberg said.
Babé Farms was founded in 1986. Lundberg and his mother, Judy Lundberg-Wafer, one of the farm’s founders, will celebrate the farm’s 30th anniversary in March.
Sun wine and food columnist Wendy Thies Sell can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cougars & Mustangs Oil, water, and rocks: Freeport McMoRan wins one battle in Price Canyon drilling war SLO County ranked No. 6 in the U.S. for female owned businesses Cal Poly research brings in big grant money and patents Dawn Ortiz-Legg joins Jordan Cunningham in race for state Assembly New report shows challenges for SLO County women SLO County jury convicts Richard Scott Brooks of human trafficking, pimping