The Jones of Bar-D Ranch
Pioneers of the Central Coast — By Patti Bond
The steep, sandy hillsides of Bar-D Ranch make the use of a tractor impossible, but the arugula loves it, according to Patti Morgan Jones. Patti and her life partner, Steve Jones, own the farm that is tucked away off Hidden Valley Road in Royal Oaks above Elkhorn Slough. The couple purchased the land along with Steve’s mother, Nell, in 1983, and started planting greens, Meyer lemons, strawberries, and other produce that are still cultivated there today.
The day I visited the ranch, Steve was out in the field searching for an elusive leak in the irrigation system. So I met with Patti and her daughter-in-law, Karen. Karen has been selling the farm's produce at the farmers markets for the many years, and is now shadowing Steve in the field to learn the fine art and science of farming. The plan is for her to eventually assume responsibility for running the farm and allow her in-laws some deserved rest. Patti has had some health issues and Steve is a disabled Vietnam veteran. Karen's husband, Kevin, a general contractor, may pitch in soon too, depending on how and when the construction industry recovers.
Unlike many farms, the planting, weeding, harvesting, and packing at Bar-D Ranch is all done by hand using hand tools. Sustainable methods have always been used and chemicals have never been applied. The family does the farm work themselves with the help of one employee so that it is done to Steve's very high standards for quality. All foods are handled with gloves to avoid bruising or damaging the fresh produce. Potatoes are carefully dug to protect them from cuts. And the produce is always kept clean, from field to farmers market. Steve has perfected techniques for producing wonderfully flavorful, high quality produce that loyal customers keep coming back for. The broccoli and zucchini are very popular with children.
Steve and Patti's pioneering, independent spirit is rooted in the 25 years they spent living in the Big Sur wilderness before they started the ranch. Patti taught rock climbing and was one of the first women certified by the Mountain Rescue Association. She was what you might call a predecessor to today's paramedic. “This experience gave me the confidence and skills to be able to live a self sufficient lifestyle in the wild in Big Sur and then on the ranch,” says Patti. The Jones built the farm up from bare land over several years while they lived in both places, constructed a home on the property, and established some wholesale accounts to sell to local restaurants and stores. Bar-D was one of the original participants in the first farmers market in downtown Santa Cruz after the earthquake in 1991. They joined the Monterey Bay Certified Farmers Markets in 1994.
Karen, a mother of four sons ages 3, 7, 10, and 13, is excited about her expanding role at Bar-D. Her kids love to help at the market. “The kids absolutely beam with pride when customers tell them how much they like their grandfather's produce! They can answer questions about the food we sell, and can also make change. It’s a great education!” Karen says. Steve rarely sells at the farmers markets today, but when he does, his fans gather around. “I think Steve should start a church,” says Patti, jokingly. She added, “He is a good listener and he knows what to say to people to make them feel good. That’s quite a gift for all of us.”
Market Profile: about the produce that Bar-D Ranch grows>
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