Lucero Organic Farms
Farm Hand Becomes Independent Farmer
Ben Lucero credits the proliferation of farmer's markets around the San Francisco Bay Area with his ability to become a small, independent farmer. He grew up in a family of farm hands and as a young man worked as a hired hand himself. Not totally happy with that way of life, he tried to develop his own organic farm in Santa Cruz on a part-time basis in the 1960's, while still working as a hired hand. But the fluctuation of prices from wholesale buyers made his small business unsustainable. It wasn't until the farmers' market movement got into full swing in the late 1980's that he was tempted to try again, by selling directly to consumer rather than to wholesalers. This time around it's been successful.
Ben's success has led him to develop two farm sites, totaling 36 acres, in San Martin and Gilroy. He now personally sells at six farmers' markets in the Bay Area, while running his two farms. But success has run away with Ben over the past few years. He now talks about cutting back his acreage and the number of markets he goes to so he can spend more time on the farm to better control the quality of his produce and to enjoy the farm life that motivated him to become an independent farmer.
Best Known for Berries
Lucero Organic Farms is best known at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market for its Seascape strawberries and Heritage raspberries, which are available from spring through late fall. But Ben also grows over 40 other varieties of produce. In the summer and early fall, you'll find some of the 20 varieties of tomatoes that he grows and at least 4 varieties of sweet and hot peppers. In the fall he offers a wide and interesting assortment of squash, ornamental corn and corn for popping!
I was attracted to Lucero's farm stand by a translucent pale yellow, pear-shaped tomato that I'd never seen before. I learned that it took Ben about 7 years of cross breeding many varieties of tomatoes to develop this unique hybrid and it's only available at the farmers' markets that Ben participates in.
Bartlett Pear Ivory Pear Tomato
Each week during the summer and fall, Lucero sells do-it-yourself salsa packs. For $3.00, you'll get a pre-assembled plastic container of sweet and hot peppers, several varieties of tomatoes, garlic and purple tomatillos. Ben's salsa recipe is on the back of the box. These salsa packs sell out quickly, so drop by his stand early.
Lucero Organic Farms is at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market from March through about mid-December.
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