At the north entrance to the Saturday S.F. Ferry Plaza Market, you'll see a big white truck surrounded by a massive array of cut flowers in big white plastic buckets selling at prices that make it irresistible to buy as much as you can carry home.
Pursuing a Passion
The flowers are all field grown by Linda Arietta on her 15-acre farm in Watsonville. She's a strong, energetic, independent and determined woman who has been pursuing her passion for flowers since she started her own farm in 1970. Linda grew up in a farming family in Watsonville and by the time she was 10, she knew that she wanted to spend her life farming. Linda started that career 25 years ago as a grower of strawberries and raspberries, but flowers were her real passion so she began a gradual shift in that direction about 20 years ago. Today, flowers are a predominant part of her business, though she still grows strawberries and raspberries in small quantities.
In the spring and summer, the entire north east corner of the Market is brimming with 4-foot tall stalks of delphiniums in fetching shades of iridescent blue, mauve and deep purple. Linda has devoted 2 acres of her 15-acre farm to the cultivation of delphiniums, and she considers these one of her specialties. A bunch of 10 stalks sells for $5.00 (2 bunches for $9.00). Larkspur and strawflowers can also be found in abundance. But nothing can rise above the predominance of the delphinium display -- the sheer size of the stalks, their iridescent colors and the massive quantities available to select from. As the summer comes to an end and the delphiniums are over, the stand takes on a fall glow of sunflowers and celosias (a cockscomb that comes in vibrant red, pink orange, and gold).
Throughout the year, Linda grows over 100 different varieties of flowers. She is continuously planting and replanting so she's able to offer fresh flowers throughout the year.
Tana, who runs the stand for Linda in San Francisco on Saturdays, has barely a minute to catch her breath between customers stocking up with arm loads of flowers for the weekend. On an average Saturday, Tana sells a 100 bunches of delphiniums alone.
Strawberries and Raspberries
Around the corner from the back of the truck, you'll find a small stand of raspberries and strawberries. Linda sells her berries only at farmers' markets around the Bay Area and she typically has only small quantities to sell each week during the berry season. By mid-morning, Tana is usually sold out.
Fresh and Freeze Dried Flowers
The farmers' markets throughout the Bay Area are a major outlet for Linda's flowers. Country Essence participates in 28 markets every week. But you'll also see her fresh flower arrangements in the lobbies of major hotels in downtown San Francisco.
What she doesn't sell at the farmers' markets, to hotels or to a few wholesalers that she supplies on a regular basis, she freeze dries for flower arrangements and wreaths. Linda maintains her own staff who not only do the drying (a 9-day, labor-intensive process), but also design and fabricate the arrangements and sell to major retail outlets such as Neiman Marcus and Smith & Hawken.
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