Aptos, Monterey and Carmel — (March – June)
PO Box 7537
Second-generation farmers Ray and his late brother Dan Franscioni established HOG Farms in the early 1990s. Born in Salinas and raised in Gonzales on their late father Silvio’s farm, the brothers learned early on what farming entailed.
HOG Farms partially came by its name when Ray first visited the Hollister property where the brothers would eventually plant asparagus. During that visit, he parked alongside a pen containing two huge hogs. HOG is also an acronym for Hollister’s Original Grass.
The business is headquartered in Hollister, where 600 acres of two varieties of asparagus are grown. A yearly crop harvested in spring, HOG Farms’ asparagus is washed, trimmed, sorted and packed at a 15,000-plus-square-foot facility in Castroville. Part of the packing process involves the use of a machine that photographs each spear, measures it and sorts into appropriately sized bunches. Each spear is harvested by hand.
Industry size standards for asparagus include from thinnest to thickest: standard — diameter not less than 5/16 of an inch, large — not less than 7/16, extra large — not less than 10/16 and jumbo — not less than 13/16, according to the California Asparagus Commission. Asparagus is typically sold in bunches of 12 to 15 spears, depending upon size.
Primarily a wholesale operation, HOG Farms joined the MBCFM in 2002. Farmers markets’ sales and direct sales to local businesses account for roughly 20 percent of HOG Farms’ total sales.
Ray’s daughters Teresa Franscioni and Carli Chasen represent the third generation of farmers in the family. Teresa works on the administrative side of the business; Carli is the farmers markets coordinator.
Patricia Almond, Ray’s cousin, sells at farmers markets; field manager Doug Williams has been with the business since its inception.
A member of the lily family, asparagus was first raised in Greece about 2,500 years ago. Asparagus acreage in California runs around the 30,000 mark. Is it any wonder that California is responsible for about 80% of the nations asparagus crop?