The Happy Boys stand of organic lettuce and salad fixings is an imposing presence wrapping around the entire northwest corner of the Saturday morning S.F. Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market, comparable to Eatwell Farms dominance at the southeast corner. The concept of their stand varies a bit among the different markets they go to. At the Ferry Plaza Market, they feature pre-washed baby lettuce leaves and baby vegetables to go into salads -- baby carrots, radishes, and cherry tomatoes. Their stand is an inviting display of huge wicker baskets brimming with baby mixed salad greens, arugula leaves, mesclun, baby red and green romaine, sweet baby lettuce mix, baby spinach, baby red chard leaves and many others. At other farmers' markets, they may focus more on vegetables and less on the baby lettuce, depending on what the market clientele are attracted to.
Who Are the Happy Boys?
Andy Griffin, one of The Happy Boys pictured here, came to organic farming by an indirect route. He started out as a student of cattle range management at U.C. Davis in the late 1970's, working at organic farms in the Sacramento area during summer vacations and on weekends during the school year. Finding that cattle range management required a high degree of proficiency in chemistry--not Andy's forte--he decided to major in philosophy, but continued to work as a part-time hand at organic farms because of his growing interest in organic farming. After graduation, he worked at several organic farms, learning the business. Opportunity knocked in 1990 when he and Greg Beccio, the other "Happy Boy", decided to set up an organic farm together. Greg came to organic farming from a career in real estate and had operated his own farm before joining with Andy. Today, Greg and Andy jointly own a 65-acre farm tucked away in a corner of Santa Cruz and together with their respective spouses, Toku and Julia, run The Happy Boys Farm.
Toku Turns Them Around
Their initial operation was geared to wholesale buyers and it was Greg's wife Toku who prodded them to consider selling directly to customers, starting at Santa Cruz and Monterey farmers' markets. Her efforts were so successful that Greg and Bill stopped selling wholesale and focused entirely on selling at many of the Bay Area's farmers' markets. Andy and Greg equally share the market and farming responsibilities -- each is on the farm 3 days a week and at the farmers' markets 3 days a week.
Among their unusual baby greens that are definitely worth sampling are:
|Baby red chard||These pretty red and green leaves are so tender, they'll cook in just a few seconds. Andy recommends stirring them into an omelet for a colorful Sunday breakfast.|
|Stir-fry mix||An unusual combination of baby kale, baby tatsoi and baby mustard greens. It's fabulous stir-fried in a little peanut oil and soy sauce.|
|Pepper cress||A fine-leafed, herb-like plant that adds a peppery zing to salads. Andy waxes high on pepper cress as being representative of the concept behind The Happy Boys Farm --they strive to grow items that you won't find in grocery stores and this is certainly one!|
|Amaranth||This deep purple leaf could easily be mistaken for purple basil, but it tastes more like spinach and is used in the same way.|
Andy and Greg were fortunate to have chosen Santa Cruz for their farming operations. The mild weather there enables them to grow lettuce 365 days a year. So you'll find their freshly-harvested baby lettuces at all the Bay Area's farmers' markets every week of the year. Andy attributes their consistent quality and price ($4.00/lb. year round) to the fact that they can keep the same crew working full-time, year round.
It takes only 35 days to grow a lettuce plant suitable for harvesting as "baby" lettuce, counting from the date the seed was first watered after planting. Growing normally proceeds smoothly if the weather cooperates, but heavy rains in December 1995 - January 1996 pounded 15 acres of tender lettuce shoots into the ground. Despite a few setbacks that Mother Natures occasionally puts in their way, Andy, Greg, Toku and Julia are happily farming in Santa Cruz.