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Santa Maria Sun / Eats

The following article was posted on August 8th, 2012, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 13, Issue 22 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 22

In-season eats

Talley Farms debuts a locally grown, earth-friendly, fresh harvest box now available in the Santa Maria Valley

By WENDY THIES SELL

Over six decades, a family-run farm in Arroyo Grande has built an international reputation for growing high-quality, farm-fresh vegetables.


Bountiful harvest:
Bring home fresh, locally grown produce—like See Canyon apricots— week after week through the new Talley Farms Fresh Harvest.
PHOTO BY WENDY THIES SELL

Can’t be ‘beet’:
Get your weekly fill of Talley Farms Fresh Harvest fruits and veggies, such as these organic gold and red beets—an excellent source of essential vitamins.
PHOTO BY WENDY THIES SELL

Today, Talley Farms includes 1,200 acres of fertile farmland. They grow, pack, and ship their famous bell peppers, in addition to spinach, cilantro, nappa cabbage, lettuce, and avocados, among other produce, to some of the biggest cities in the United States and Canada.

Now, there’s a way for locals to taste the cream of the Talley crop too.

In June, they debuted Talley Farms Fresh Harvest, a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, managed by Andrea Chavez, who has worked in the produce industry for 30 years.

“I know the Talleys are very happy that we’re growing local produce for local people,” Chavez said. “The produce that’s locally grown and fresh tastes better. I really believe freshness and flavor are directly correlated.”

Every week, fresh seasonal produce grown on 60 acres of organic soil at Talley Farms, or sourced from neighboring farms, is hand picked, boxed, and delivered to pick-up locations across San Luis Obispo County—and, starting Thursday, Aug. 9, the Santa Maria Valley.

“I think people want taste back in their produce, and we miss that at the local store level,” she said.

For example, the Fresh Harvest box recently featured a variety of apricots grown in See Canyon, near Avila Beach, that Chavez said is rarely grown commercially anymore because the apricots are highly perishable and wouldn’t hold up if shipped long distances.

“But they have the best flavor! And so, we’re able to have them harvested the day before, put them in the box, and people are eating them right away,” Chavez said.

In addition to a dozen flavorful apricots, my July 25 Fresh Harvest box was also brimming with white peaches from See Canyon, organic purple carrots, nappa (Chinese) cabbage, organic gold and red beets, organic radishes, organic Hass avocados, organic cucumbers, red leaf lettuce, and cilantro.

My daughters gobbled up the ripe peaches and some of the apricots just moments after we opened the box. I prepared the beets to rave reviews at our weekend dinner party, and still had enough for leftovers.


Fertile fields:
Talley Farms, founded by Oliver Talley in 1948, grows vegetables on 1,200 acres in the Arroyo Grande Valley.
PHOTO COURTESY TALLEY FARMS

Farm-fresh produce
Talley Farms now offers a CSA called Fresh Harvest: a weekly box of locally grown fruits and vegetables with pick-up locations in Santa Maria, Orcutt, Nipomo, and other sites in San Luis Obispo County. For more information and to sign up, which is required to buy the box, go to TalleyFarmsFreshHarvest.com or call 489-5401.

Our Fresh Harvest box also included two salad recipes to inspire customers to use the large nappa cabbage, which I wouldn’t ordinarily buy.

“I believe if people have these items on hand all the time, they’ll eat more produce because it will be fresh, it will taste good, and it’s convenient,” Chavez said.

True enough. I signed up for my Talley Farms Fresh Harvest box one day and picked it up the next. I was able to choose a pick-up day and select from numerous Miner’s Hardware and Farm Supply store locations from Paso Robles to Nipomo. Fresh Harvest customers may also now pick up their pre-ordered produce boxes in Santa Maria at Wayne’s Tire and Auto Repair at 302 W. Betteravia, or in Old Orcutt at Doc Burnstein’s Ice Cream Lab at 168 W. Clark Ave.

Right now, Fresh Harvest comes in one size, priced at $24 per box. Chavez said the amount of produce is good for two or three people. Talley Farms is considering creating a larger box for bigger families and maybe even a smaller one.

And it’s almost ready to offer customized boxes. So, if you want five avocados instead of two, for example, you’d be able to order extra online.

Local honey, olive oil, salad dressing, and other locally produced non-perishable food items may be available through Fresh Harvest this fall or winter.

In the meantime, customers can look forward to the following Fresh Harvest produce as summer comes to a close and we enter fall: heirloom tomatoes, cluster tomatoes, bell peppers, corn, green beans, green onions, snap peas, mushrooms, basil, and artichokes. Also get ready for apples, pears, blackberries, raspberries, plums, tangerines, and cantaloupe. All local.

It bears mentioning that the Talleys also go above and beyond looking after the local people who work for them in Arroyo Grande, planting, caring for, and harvesting their crops.

In 2004, Brian Talley—president of Talley Farms and Talley Vineyards—and his wife Johnine established the Fund for Vineyard and Farm Workers, providing grants each spring to organizations that help agriculture workers in San Luis Obispo County.

The goal is to raise $100,000 every year to improve the educational, health, and financial well-being of thousands of local farm workers.

One of the major fundraising efforts for the endowment is the annual release of a wine called Mano Tinta, made at Talley Vineyards.

The balance for the fund is currently $446,000.

It makes sense that Chavez is so enthusiastic about working for the Talleys: Rosemary, Brian, Todd, and Ryan.

“The Talleys are really a great family to work for. I love—I love working here!” Chavez said. “Everybody is friendly and supportive. Everybody strives to do their best, and it’s a very positive environment.”

They have a saying at Talley Farms: “Excellence in Everything!” The words are posted on signs all over the ranch; it’s their vision statement.

“We say it every day to our people,” Chavez said. “We really stress that. It permeates this whole operation here.”

And now, excellence comes in a box.

Food and wine writer Wendy Thies Sell isn’t afraid of nappa cabbage anymore. E-mail story ideas to wthies@santamariasun.com.




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