Fan Tan's "Fan-tan-stic" Display
As late fall turns to early winter, the size of the farmers' stands at Saturday's San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market begins to contract noticeably as the farmers have less produce to offer. But in early November, the Fan Tan Farm stand (aka Dirty Girl Produce) on the east side of the Market is one of the few that still has a surprisingly complete array of produce. Their stand is a meticulous display of more than 12 varieties of harvest-fresh greens arranged in stacks on a semi-circular table. The left and right ends of the table are mirror images of radishes, carrots, beets, turnips, cherry tomatoes, herbs and green onions which converge in the center with mountains of various types of leafy greens. The freshness and quality of the produce is immediately apparent
The Two Ladies Behind Dirty Girl Produce
Dirty Girl Produce is a newcomer to the Bay Area farming community. It was started in 1994, by Ali Edwards and Jane Freedman, two young women in their late 20's and early 30's, respectively. Ali and Jane come to farming from very different backgrounds. While doing her undergraduate degree at U.C. Santa Cruz, Ali worked at a local farm where she got hooked on farming, but decided to pursue a Ph.D. in philosophy at U.C. Berkeley instead of going into farming at that time. Jane, who studied agro-ecology at U.C. Santa Cruz in 1990, was ready to apply her skills after graduation. When friends in the tightly knit organic agriculture community in Santa Cruz brought them together, Ali decided to give up pursuing a Ph.D. in order to launch Dirty Girl Produce in partnership with Jane.
In the Santa Cruz "Green Belt"
With the help of friends, Ali and Jane acquired a 3½-acre parcel of land only 5 minutes from downtown Santa Cruz. The farm is in one of the best growing areas of the Bay Area -- in Santa Cruz's "green belt", where the weather is relatively cool in the summer and not cold in the winter. This mild climate enables most Santa Cruz farmers to grow vegetables almost year round without having to worry about bolting in the summer and freezing in the winter. The river bed soil is some of the most fertile in Northern California.
Blessed with these gifts from Mother Nature plus the farming savvy of these two talented young ladies, their farm is a bountiful producer well into late December. Ali and Jane grow certified organic "market garden" produce, but they specialize in beans and leafy greens. Their beans -- cannellini, French haricots and various types of wax beans -- peaked in August - Sept. and are over for this season. But they'll be back to the Market again with beans in July. The leafy greens, which thrive the cool Santa Cruz weather, are still at their peak so you'll be able to find kale, spinach, head lettuce, salad mix, carrots, beets and green onions in abundance until mid-December.
A Newcomer to the S.F Ferry Plaza Market
Dirty Girl Produce is a new comer to the Ferry Plaza Market, appearing for the first time mid-September. As a relatively young farm, they are very pleased to be invited to participate in this Market, which is tough to get into even for more mature farms. Judging by the high quality of the produce displayed at their stand in early November, it looks like they're well on the way to making their farm a successful operation and to making an excellent contribution to the Saturday Ferry Plaza Market.
In addition to participating in this Market, they also sell at the Berkeley and Los Gatos farmers' markets and supply a few restaurants such as Chez Panisse in Berkeley and Sent Sovi in Saratoga. These sales activities plus their farming chores keep Ali and Jane extremely busy during the height of the farming season. They plan to take a few months of much earned vacation during the low winter months and will begin spring planting in March. So you won't find them at the Market from the end of December until early June, when they expect to be back with the season's first crop of leafy greens, carrots and beets.
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