I visited Paul Rodriguez’s farm, Rancho Charanda, in Redlands, CA on February 24, 2021.
I had been worried about taking the time because of all of my other responsibilities in the office, but realized it would be a great break from being behind the computer. So I planned the week out to spare a few hours to make this trip and I’m so glad I did.
It had been over a year since I had visited a farm and I kind of forgot about how refreshing and fun it is to visit face-to-face with a farmer, especially a small farm where it’s more personal.
Paul was excited to see me and the first thing he wanted to do was show off the water tank he put up using the grant money he got from The FruitGuys Community
Fund. Rancho Charanda was one of 15 farms that received a 2020 grant from The FruitGuys Community Fund, which supports small farms’ sustainable agriculture goals. The 3-acre farm grows oranges, tangerines, lemons, avocados, sugarcane, chile peppers, and a wide variety of native foods, such as cactus paddles, prickly pear, xoconostle, and cholla. Their grant allowed them to purchase a water storage tank and replace their outdated drip irrigation system.
He was really proud of it and appreciative of the Community Fund for making it happen. He told me the actual costs for the project were a lot higher due to Covid so he had to improvise a little using railroad wood.
He really liked the FruitGuys van I brought to pick up our order and he took a few pictures of it. He used to be in graphic design and he loved our logo and the pear guys.
We talked about the weather and how it’s been affecting his crops not only this season, but how it’s changed since he first started farming. He travels down to Mexico and other parts of California to get ideas of what grows in warmer areas to see what else he can grow. He grows a lot of citrus, avocados, herbs, and native foods like nopales, pitaya, aloe vera, xoconostle, and sugar cane. I told him we are serving communities through a grant through Growing The Table that are interested in native items like those and he was shocked someone was asking for them. He said it has taken him 15 years to find someone that wanted to buy them.
Something else that I found really cool about his setup is his ability to experiment and try different things. For example, I asked him about his pest management system so he took me to the back of the farm where he had a few containers where he was making highly concentrated cold brew coffee to see if it would ward off pests. I thought that was interesting and curious to see if it works.
I think I forgot how much I love to visit farms. I always leave feeling refreshed, inspired, and just get a bolt of energy. Farmers are very passionate people and I think it just rubs off on me.
Miguel Esteban Robles is The FruitGuys Los Angeles Buyer. A Socal native, Miguel loves sports. Currently his favorite fruit is the Ojai Pixie Tangerine!
Each week The FruitGuys buyers meet virtually to talk about which fruit they love this week and what will be in the mixes in each region. They carefully craft our regional mixes to balance what’s in season from local farms with variety, availability, and price.