We interviewed Peter Martinelli of Fresh Run Farm, who recently started farming on a plot of land at McEvoy Ranch.
He is the exclusive supplier to restauranteur, Michael Tusk, of Quince and Cotogna restaurants in San Francisco. We discussed his background, passion for farming and organic food production, as well as the crops he is growing at McEvoy Ranch last week:
Tell us about your background, your passion for farming, and how you got started.
Peter Martinelli grew up in Ross Valley, Marin County. His family owned a ranch in Bolinas, where Peter would spend weekends and summers. He caught the gardening bug at a young age, growing his first vegetable garden at eight years old. Coming from a family of lawyers, he was never encouraged to be a farmer. When he graduated from UC Berkeley with a history degree, he was headed towards a career in law, but still grappled with his passion for agriculture. He ultimately decided to work for Warren Weber at Star Route Farms after graduating, during a formative moment in the Bay Area organic food movement. He continued working there for ten years, with a strong belief in practicing agriculture that was both environmentally friendly and healthier for consumers. The farm supplied over 100 restaurants and grocer accounts, including Chez Panisse and others. Star Route and other farms were able to offer high-quality, better-tasting produce, including heirloom varieties of fruits and vegetables.In the mid-1990s, Peter started his own farming venture on a ¼ acre of land on his family’s farm in Bolinas. He continued to focus on heirloom varieties with fantastic taste, and plant varieties that thrived in foggy Bolinas. Michael Tusk had been a longtime client of Peter’s, and as Peter looked to reinvent his farm and business after a long period of drought, Michael approached him with the opportunity for Peter and Fresh Run Farm to become the exclusive grower for his restaurants.Peter is now in his 5th season of growing produce exclusively for Quince, Cotogna, and Verjus. This partnership allows him to spend more time farming versus maintaining multiple accounts and has been mutually beneficial for both Peter and Michael. Peter says the relationship has pushed him in new directions to grow interesting new crops from Europe and Asia and allowed him the opportunity to experiment and expand his knowledge of new plant varieties and farming techniques.
Why did you choose McEvoy Ranch for a new location to grow your crops?
Peter realized that the Ranch was the perfect place to grow warm-season crops that he was not able to grow in Bolinas. As McEvoy Ranch looked for new ways to use its land, Samantha Dorsey, McEvoy Ranch President, introduced the idea to Peter. After showing the Ranch terraces, orchards, and greenhouse to Peter, he was eager for the opportunity to work with the well-cared-for soil and land.
What are you growing at McEvoy Ranch? What will they be used for?
Peter plans to grow carrots, eggplant, cucumbers, soybeans, and okra, among other vegetables in the future. In the winter, he will plant a robust cover crop to maintain soil quality, and continue to rotate crops in future seasons.
How can consumers support local, family-scale farming?
Consumers can opt into CSAs (community-supported agriculture), a system that connects the producer and consumers more closely by allowing the customers to subscribe to the harvest of a specific farm or group of farms. Additionally, Peter and Michael Tusk are planning to create farm boxes to pack and sell a la carte, a program to be managed by Michael Tusk and his restaurant teams.