Five minutes at the market: Smit Orchards

smitorchards.jpgAs I mentioned in my last post, getting more connected to your food means getting more connected to those who grow it. I’ve been going to the farmers markets for several months, and not until recently did I finally get over my supermarket style of shopping (get in and out as fast as possible, trying not to ram into anyone’s Achilles heel with my shopping cart in my haste).

Slowly I’ve gained enough confidence to chat with purveyors about why some of their offerings are organic and others not, about why strawberries were so late — and so expensive — this year (all the spring rain), and what to do with unfamiliar items like green garlic.

Yet despite being a reporter in real life, I was still nervous when I decided to interview the two guys manning the Smit Orchards stall. It was a busy Saturday morning at the Berkeley farmers market, crawling with shoppers, and I hated to impose on them for a blog that they’d never heard of. But after I sampled a few of their delicious green grapes and bought a pound, I took a deep breath and asked them a few questions anyway.

Abel and Martheus (left and right, above)
Farm Smit Orchards of Linden, CA (near Stockton)
Connection to farm Sales rep/vendor, specializing in setup
Where to find 30 farmers markets from San Diego to Northern California (Abel and Martheus only handle two, both in Berkeley)
How long farm has been operating Since 1969, by the Smit family
Size 120 acres
Crops Stone fruit, apples, and grapes
Organic? Grapes are certified, other crops are transitioning — “they’re organic but we don’t have the certification yet”

Dairy Queen: Do you mind having to talk to so many people at the market?

smit_abel.jpgAbel: Not at all. [Indicating Martheus] Do you know how many phone numbers he gets?

smit_martheus.jpgMartheus [quickly]: That was before I had a girlfriend. Not anymore. You have to be a people person to work at the markets. It’s all about return sales.

DQ: Have you noticed a change in turnout in the past few months?

Abel: Oh yeah. Lots more people, and everybody wants organic. Human beings are like sheep, and organic is hot right now.

DQ: Is that why Smit Orchards is getting its stone fruit certified?

Abel: Yes. It doesn’t matter to people if you do it organically; you need that seal of approval. I always tell customers, if you’re in doubt, look to see if the paperwork is displayed. If it’s not, ask to see it. That’s the beauty of shopping at the market, you can ask questions.

He’s right; it was easy. Ask some yourselves — or if you’re still shy, you can e-mail requests for farmers in the Bay Area, Austin, and Seattle who you’d like us to interview to

Photos by the Potato Non Grata.

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