Urban markets aid next generation profit center

Urban markets aid next generation


For the Capital Press

Published: January 11, 2016 2:40PM

Julia Hollister/ For the Capital Press Sandi McGinnis-Garcia, left, and niece Sara Evett sell their produce at the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Markets in San Francisco and other locations. They are continuing the operation of their family farm.

The next generations take over operation of a family farm in California and turn to farmers’ markets for customers.

WATSONVILLE, Calif. — When Howard McGinnis retired from 47 years in farming recently, his daughter jumped at the opportunity to run the operation.

“I grew up on the farm and started driving a tractor when I was 9 years old,” Sandi McGinnis-Garcia said. “There were five kids and but only my niece, Sara Evett, and I were interested in taking over from Dad. We, as co-owners, turned everything over to a (limited liability corporation).”

The 17½-acre McGinnis Ranch is 99 miles south of San Francisco. All of the produce is sold to consumers through San Francisco farmers’ markets: Ferry Plaza, Alemany and in Menlo Park. Any leftover produce is donated to a food pantry in a local shelter and leftover flowers are taken to various locations including a senior center and a church.

Brie Mazurek, marketing and communications manager of the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture at Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market, had praise for McGinnis-Garcia and her contributions to the success of the market.

“McGinnis Ranch has been part of CUESA’s Ferry Plaza Farmers Market community for more than 15 years, bringing their beautiful bouquets, berries and vegetables,” she said. “As an organization that supports farmers in making their operations more sustainable, we’re excited to see the next generation stepping in to carry on that family farming legacy and transition to organic.”

McGinnis-Garcia also noticed some changes in the consumers over the years.

“Biggest changes I have witnessed in 30 years of going to farmers’ markets are that people are demanding organic produce,” she said. “They are more aware of how food is grown and where it comes from and they want to buy local.”

The crops — grown in sandy soil with a combination of commercial fertilizer and mushroom compost — includes carrots, fava beans, flowers, green beans, loganberries, raspberries, winter squash, strawberries, English peas, broccoli, zucchini, beets, pumpkins and olallieberries.

“I always advise customers to break the bushy green tops off the baby carrots first,” McGinnis-Garcia said. “That way the carrots will stay fresher longer because they are not providing nutrients that keep the tops alive. On the farm, we use the greens for compost and mulch. The cucumber beetle doesn’t like to eat the carrot tops so we put them around the flower beds.”

The farm currently uses an Integrated Pest Management approach that includes beneficial insects and crop rotation but McGinnis-Garcia said they are transitioning to organic, a three-year process.

The farmland — which sits on a 12 percent grade — is steep but drains well. The grade allows maximum sun exposure and extends the farm’s growing season significantly. She predicts they will continue to pick beans and berries until the first frost.

Water is not a problem now. The farm uses mostly drip irrigation, and some sprinkler irrigation from two deep wells on the property.

“In my opinion, the biggest challenge facing agriculture today is land access,” she said. “There is not as much land to be had and if I were a beginning farmer I couldn’t do what I am doing now. Everything I have was already in place when I took over, so I didn’t have to consider the cost of land, cost of getting started and setting-up market outlets.

“We have had the same crew for 25 years and the farm has to sustain them as well.”

Sandi McGinnis-Garcia

Hometown: Watsonville, Calif.

Occupation: Farmer

Family: Two children

Quote: “I believe in retaining as much ag land as possible. My grandmother was a farmer, too, so I am happy to be a part of four generations of time-honored values. And, I also enjoy a good challenge.”