Bolinas-based Star Route Farms grows specialty crops that can be grown in West Marin’s cool-Mediterranean zone, using time-honored organic techniques to enrich their soils and create healthy crops. More recently, they expanded into the Coachella Valley in Southern California, in order to ensure they could offer a year-round supply of their organic produce to the Marin Farmers Market and Bay area restaurants.
MM: What is your farming philosophy/approach?
AL: Star Route Farms was founded in 1974 by Warren Weber as an organic farm. Warren was part of the first certifying organization, CCOF. We have always maintained our firm support of growing organically, and at this point are the oldest continually certified organic row crop farm in California, and possibly the U.S. since certification started in California.
MM: What do you specialize in growing, and is there a seasonality to your produce?
AL: The home farm is in Bolinas, where we grow most of our crops spring through fall, and a few in the winter. We specialize in cool coastal climate crops, which means lettuces, greens, herbs and non-heat loving vegetables, such as fennel, beans, squash, broccoli, onions, artichokes, radishes, and the like. Our second farm is in the Coachella Valley, where we grow a lot of the same crops in the opposite season through the winter. Due to our two locations, the crops named above are pretty much year round. In season now, from Bolinas, we have nettles, herbs, fava greens, the last of the chard, Meyer Lemons, and artichokes. The desert is going full bore with romaine hearts, little gems, arugula (both regular and "wild"), spinach, beets, carrots, onions, fennel, and sprouting broccolis. More seasonal are the beans in summer, as well as basil, summer squash and cucumbers. In the fall we have our pumpkin patch. And winter is radicchio heyday and cardoon season.
MM: How do you serve nettles?
AL: Nettles can be used in many ways, but we always recommend sautéing or cooking them in soup, on pizza, in pasta, and with eggs.
MM: Is there a trending vegetable or an unusual vegetable that you grow that you can shed more light on?
AL: We are always looking for new and unusual crops to keep our chefs and customers inspired. The most recent additions include Celtuce, a Chinese swollen stem lettuce and Melon Cucumbers from Puglia.
MM: Where do you sell and to whom?
AL: We sell direct to restaurants and at three farmers markets: the Thursday and Sunday Marin Civic Center Markets and the Saturday market at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza. Many local chefs shop with us, especially at the Thursday market. There are really too many to name them all, and I wouldn't want to hurt anyone's feelings by leaving them out. We also have a very nice list of restaurants, close to 100, that order regularly, at least once a week, and many of whom we have worked with for decades. Some of our oldest accounts include Chez Panisse, Zuni Cafe, Greens, Jardiniere, Boulevard, and Oliveto.
MM: Do you have any other tips to share about your produce?
AL: A general rule is to make sure to wash any and all produce, always!