Young Farmers Digging it in Santa Cruz
By Patti Bond – Young, intelligent, and passionate about organic farming, Adriana Silva and Chris Tuohig, owners of Tomatero Farm, are shining examples of the new generation of farmers. Ages 28 and 33 respectively, this charismatic couple are first generation farmers. They met in 2003 and threw their lot in together to farm four acres in Corralitos. After they saw that farming could be a viable livelihood, they dug right in, diversifying their crops, and leasing additional acres. They currently lease have 25 acres in production at four ranches in Watsonville and Corralitos.
Like many of their generation, Adriana and Chris have followed their hearts when it comes choosing their life’s work. Adriana, who grew up in the Bay area, was drawn to plants. After working at two Santa Cruz flower shops, she took a job at a local farm hoping to get involved with small scale food production. Driving the delivery truck didn’t cut it, so she starting selling produce at area farmers markets for another farm. It was then she became reacquainted with Chris, who was also selling at farmers markets and working on a farm.
Chris, a Santa Cruz native who spent many years of his youth in Aptos, never considered farming until 2002. He was working in construction when a sign by the side of the road advertising a farm tour caught his eye and drew him in. He was very impressed by what he saw and the idea of having your own business and providing healthy food for people strongly appealed to him. He found four available acres in Corralitos, worked out a lease arrangement, and starting planting tomatoes, a crop he knew could do well. He invited Adriana to get involved. Their common interest in organic agriculture sparked a business relationship that blossomed into much more.
“When we started out, we didn’t think too much about the risk we were taking. We just jumped into it,” said the vibrant, raven-haired Adriana. “For the first several years we worked like crazy planting, harvesting and selling to keep up with increasing demand for our products. Now we are in a phase that is about becoming more efficient,” she said. “When I was younger, I wanted to do something that I loved that had value. Running a farm means I need no excuse for what I do. I am proud that we are providing our community with fresh, nutritious, organic food.”
Operating a diversified farm that produces several types of berries, a variety of greens, as well as free-range organic eggs, has been a challenge. “Each crop is its own business; we have learned a tremendous amount which makes life interesting,” said Chris. Both Adriana and Chris are outgoing and enjoy interacting with customers, but what Chris enjoys most is nurturing the crops and seeing what is growing. Despite the cold, wet weather in January, he will be planting broccoli and cauliflower. There is always something for Chris, Adriana and their 20 to 25 year-round employees to do on the farm, and you can bet that whatever the task, they are digging it.
Market Profile: more about the Tomatero Farm>
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