New Generation Farmers
By Kirsten Fairchilds
A knock on the door. An introduction by a mutual friend.
These two simple actions proved to have a huge impact on Caleb Barron, Jeffrey Caspary and Johnny Wilson, the trio of Santa Cruz County residents that owns and operates Fogline Farm.
Located on the 38-acre Manildi Ranch nestled in the Santa Cruz Mountains above Soquel, Fogline Farm joined the Monterey Bay Certified Farmers Market in May. The three owners rotate market duties, bringing their pasture-raised chicken and pork along with pears and Padron peppers as well as value-added products such as preserves, tomato sauce and hot sauce to MPC, Carmel and Aptos.
Although all graduated from UC Santa Cruz Extension’s six-month apprenticeship program in ecological horticulture, the three didn’t become acquainted until Barron (a 2007 graduate) knocked on Wilson’s door about roughly the same time Caspary (2000) and Wilson (2005) were introduced by a mutual friend in 2010.
“Jeffrey and Johnny had already met when I literally knocked on Johnny’s door and introduced myself,” said Barron, a Minneapolis, Minnesota native. “I said ‘I can help you go big. Let’s expand tenfold. Let’s collaborate and see where this takes us.’”
Hailing from different parts of the country with backgrounds and interests equally as varied, Barron, 31, Caspary, 46, and Wilson, 32, nevertheless all have similar philosophies when it comes to farming.
“We’re really not like-minded at all,” said Wilson, a Newport Beach, California native who first established Fogline Farm on his own in 2009. “If each one of us was the only person farming here, this would be a different place. But the three of us together really draws out a good dynamic. We have similar base values when it comes to food and farming, and I would also include Bruce in that.”
Established in 1905, the Manildi Ranch — the property on which Fogline Farm operates — is currently in its third generation of family stewardship with Bruce Manildi at the helm. Wilson met Manildi in 2009 through the California FarmLink program which pairs aspiring farmers like Wilson with retiring and/or experienced farmers like Manildi.
“There are still a lot of things I have to teach them,” said Bruce Manildi, before a meeting with the three on a recent weekday. “But they’re really nice guys and anxious to learn.
“It’s nice to see so many things going on around here,” Manildi continued. “I’m learning as well. I’m learning a lot about animals. When I was a kid, we had a cow. My mother had some chickens. That was it.”
While Barron manages the chickens and pigs that roam the pastures on the ranch, Caspary handles the 52-member Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) project as well as manages the greenhouses and the value-added products.
Wilson is in charge of the orchards, the vineyards — grapes are sold directly to local winemakers — and handles overall ranch integration, not to mention the office work.
“We all share a very common interest in our vision of an integrated farm,” said Caspary, a Boston, Mass., native who grew up on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. “The three of us give each other a lot of room. We are all patient with each other.
“We still make the big decisions together, but we’re trying not to micromanage,” Caspary continued. “We’re taking a laid-back approach to this farm to let it have a life of its own.”
Market Profile: more about Fogline Farms >
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