Purveyors of Organic Specialty Produce
By Kirsten Fairchilds
Ron Borba refers to his consistent perusal of catalogs, especially seed catalogs, as “light reading.”
Given that one of the philosophies of Borba Farms — of which Ron and his wife Cindy Borba own and operate — is to research and locate unique foods that can be grown in the area, delving into catalogs allows Ron to bring seldom-seen items to farmers markets.
From growing sprouting broccoli to French filet green beans to black raspberries, Borba Farms has been a mainstay at farmers markets in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond since 1992 and thus carved out a reputation for introducing new foods to those fortunate market-goers.
This month marks the arrival of Borba Farms to the Monterey Bay Certified Farmers Markets (MBCFM) for the first time. As a lifelong friend of one of the original founders of the MBCFM — Watsonville farmer Manuel Netto of Manuel Netto Farm — Ron followed Netto’s suggestion to join the market upon Netto’s retirement at the end of 2011.
“Manuel has known me since I was born — he was friends with my father,” said Ron, whose parents grew and dried apricots in Aromas. “We’ve had a good relationship over all these years. I appreciate the fact that he trusts me. The (MBCFM) was his place, and he’s entrusted us to take over for him.”
Established in 1970, Borba Farms consists of approximately 77 acres, located on four different farms — two in Aromas and two in Watsonville. One of the farms is next door to Manuel Netto Farm. The Borbas also lease 18 acres from Netto.
Customer demand was the primary reason that Borba Farms decided to switch from conventional farming to organic. Three of the farms became certified organic in 2010. The fourth, the original eight-acre farm, is in the process of becoming certified organic.
Formerly a wholesale operation only, Borba Farms now counts 90 percent of its sales from farmers markets.
“It was hard for us to make a living doing commercial farming, so we decided little by little to start doing farmers markets,” said Ron, a Watsonville High graduate like his wife Cindy. “We started at Prunedale, which had three little stands. We both went. It was probably terrible business, but it seemed good to us at the time.”
Said Cindy, “We definitely like the personal connections we develop at farmers markets. We had customers that would come and watch our children compete in their high school sports. One customer from Mountain View came to Hollister to watch our oldest son play football for Palma. In the rain! The customers become invested in your lives, and you become invested in theirs.”
Since the Borbas also believe in bringing the freshest produce to the market with the best flavor, they have found continued success experimenting with different varieties,
Which is another reason Ron is so devoted to catalog reading.
“In the late summer and early fall, even though it’s high harvest season, Ron gets intense about his seed-catalog reading,” Cindy said. “It truly is a pastime for him.”
Market Profile: more about Bobra Farms>
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