Have you noticed that God didn’t create “The Farm of Eden?” It’s one thing to imagine walking in a garden naked with your lover like Adam & Eve did, innocently sharing ribs, sharing fruit, caught up in the enchantment of nature. But a farm? It’s not the same vibe to wander around an alfalfa field in your birthday suit, or a cattle feedlot, or a cabbage patch. Besides, if we are to take the Book of Genesis literally, farms are “cursed ground.” By the end of Chapter Three, God has kicked the first couple out of Eden and we’ve all had to live in exile, “by the sweat of the brow,” ever since. Farms are work. Farms are all about production, harvest, sales, shipping, payables, receivables, payroll, regulations, taxes and either avoiding, surviving, or ameliorating the vagaries of weather.
I don’t buy into the notion that my career in agriculture has been a curse but, like Adam’s first son, Cain, I am a farmer, and sometimes agriculture can feel punishing. The last several years have been an especially challenging rollercoaster ride for many businesses, with all of the disruptions provoked or aggravated by the Covid 19 virus, and life on our little farm has been no exception. But there has been one benefit to all the plague drama; Starr & I got to devote a lot more time to our home garden. With every other distraction closed down or restricted, there wasn’t much else to do but garden when we weren’t working on the farm. And now, after three years, as the pandemic slowly morphs into a “new normal,” the gardens on our home ranch shine like they never did before and our work is beginning to pay off in blossoms and fruit. Our place can’t be The Garden of Eden, but we can aim towards planting a paradise, and we’ve even found homes for a couple of colorful, decorative, little talavera pottery snakes amongst our flowers, just for fun.
Over the last three years we have planted over a hundred citrus trees, and set out at least one hundred rose bushes. We’ve set out beds of ornamental and culinary herbs, we’ve created floral walkways, planted redwood trees, and erected frames for heirloom Mexican crops like Hoja Santa, chayote, and perennial beans. We’ve tucked a kaleidoscope of ornamental sages and succulents into the corners and crannies of the garden, and established hedges of fruiting cacti. Our most sustained effort at gardening has probably been the construction of a raised bed Eleven Circuit Medieval Labyrinth, modeled after the labyrinth at the Chartres Cathedral in France, but we have planted ours out with several thousand aromatic lavender plants. And now, after all our work and the passage of time, the garden is really starting to come together. We’re calling this project “The Ladybug’s Labyrinth and Secret Garden.” It’s our goal to share our creation with the hummingbirds, butterflies, bees and ladybugs that are so much at home here in this quiet and beautiful setting…. and with you!
The pestilence of Covid aside, agriculture is never a stroll through the garden, and it never has been. Farmers who persist at their occupation learn to change their operations and adapt to the economic environment as marketing conditions change around them, just as they have to react to the weather. The now typically and predictably insane weekday traffic across the Bay Area has made our old delivery model of business problematic, so one of the adaptations we’ve made at Mariquita Farm has been to move towards a garden scale operation that is more of a destination for people to come to us. I’m thinking of this new effort at serving the people as Mariquita 2.0. Yes, we will continue to offer our produce to consumers through a series of pop-ups around the Bay Area, as we have in the past, but we will be focusing those outreach efforts on the summer and fall months when we can count on your favorite harvests of dry-farmed Early Girl tomatoes, and colorful heirloom and cherry tomatoes to go along with the herbs and flowers.
New on the farm this last year was an addition of the onsite Ladybug Gift Shop where we feature all of our dried herbs, heirloom beans, corn and flowers, along with a collection of gifts, plus a variety of plant starts that we have grown, including both edible and ornamental plants. For those folks who are further away, or for mailing our farm products and gifts to friends and family out of the area, look for our new mail order possibilities on the website this spring. Also, on the farm for the 2023 season, we will host a series of exciting workshops on a range of activities-everything from ice-dyed clothing, amazing copper stone and gem wand making, to stepping into your garden with your very own hand-made stepping-stones. Flowers will be abundant on the farm this summer and you will be able to come and make a variety of flower bouquets. Visit us and walk the Labyrinth on World Labyrinth day, May 6th when we will host a labyrinth tour. And… if you have your own party ideas, anything from company staff parties to bridal or bachelorette parties, or if you want a place to host your workshop, our farm can be your farm for a day! Look for all the new exciting details on how to host an amazing farm event with your family and friends.
All of the details on our events and farm day-use will be presented on our newly designed website coming out later in March. You can also keep an eye on what’s coming up via our two Facebook accounts, Mariquita Farm and Ladybug’s Labyrinth and Secret Garden and you can find us on Instagram @mariquitafarm or @ladybugslabyrinth.
We are very excited about these changes and we hope you will be too!
We want to thank each and every one of you for your loyal support as hosts and customers over the many years in our CSA. Our hope is to continue the relationship by offering you an opportunity to visit us here on the farm and to come out when we have pop-ups in your area.
Here’s to a wonderful 2023
Andy and Starr
© 2023 Essay by Andy Griffin
Photos by Starling Linden