Farming Apricots with Heart and Soul
By Kirsten Fairchilds
Getting to market was a long time coming for the Pulido family. Sure, the family had been to various farmers markets before, but only as customers.
Considering that Pulido Farms was established in 1957 in Hollister and had become known for producing delicious Blenheim apricots — both dried and fresh — it seemed only natural that a farmers market would be a perfect fit.
However, it wasn’t until 2010 that the Pulidos began seriously considering joining the Monterey Bay Certified Farmers Markets.
“Since 1957, we’d wholesaled, and that’s all the family had done since then,” said Mark Pulido, part of the family’s third generation on the farm. “We had always heard a lot of good things about farmers markets. We knew that their customers were very supportive of local farmers.
“When the wholesale price started dropping, I told my father, ‘Let’s do retail and put them out ourselves, rather than continue doing what we’re doing,’ Mark continued. “He said, ‘If you can make it work, do it.’”
In October 2010, the Pulidos started selling their dried Blenheim apricots at the MPC and Carmel markets. Then, for six weeks from June through July, Pulido Farms sold fresh apricots at all four markets, to great success. The timing for harvest worked out perfectly for the Pulidos, given that they had run out of dried product at the start of June.
Due to customer demand, Pulido Farms will be drying unsulfured apricots for the very first time. The family plans to begin selling them at all four markets in the fall.
Co-owned by Mark, 38, and his father John Pulido, 68, Pulido Farms is a ranch consisting of 30 acres of apricot trees located on Hollister’s well known Spring Grove Road. Both immediate and extended family members help out in all phases of the farming with a number of them working at the various MBCFM locations on a regular basis.
Martin Pulido, Mark’s grandfather and John’s father, came to the U.S. from Mexico in 1935. He arrived in San Benito County in 1940 and purchased the property in 1957. “My grandmother Nellie will be 91 in September, and she still lives on the ranch,” said Mark, on a Saturday in July at the Aptos market. “I believe we’re one of two original families on Spring Grove Road. We still have the same shed. Everything is still done by hand.
“What the family has always done is put our heart and soul into our apricots,” Mark continued. “We always try to pick the apricots at their peak — the moment when they’re the ripest. That’s what I was told to do by my father, and that was what he was told to do by his father.”
For John Pulido, in attendance at the Aptos market twice in August, he has seen that switching the focus from wholesale to retail has brought unexpected benefits for Pulido Farms.
“I like it that we’re in the farmers markets,” said John, working alongside his daughter-in-law Jeannette and 12-year-old granddaughter Isabella at the Aptos market. “Buying and selling your product, you usually just hope you’ll make it to next year.
“But the farmers markets have changed things for us,” John continued. “We’re getting the right price for our product here. We have been able to pay our workers better because of our being here. I really like that.”
Market Profile: more about Pulido Farms>
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