He Works for Food
Rich Everett’s Family Farm
Rich and Laura Everett take a break in front of one of the persimmon trees at their Soquel farm.
Photograph by Victoria Alexander
In spite of the occasional catastrophes—like the day when a compost truck took out an entire irrigation system—Rich Everett says his worst days of farming are probably better than most people’s best days at work. “We love what we do. It’s just that simple,” Everett says.
Everett Family Farm sits on approximately 40 acres of Soquel’s deep topsoil, which is blessed with ample sunshine, a mild climate, and plenty of rain. The farm is run by Everett, his wife Laura, their three daughters, and a few paid helpers. They manage a bustling operation that includes selling organic produce to local restaurants, grocery stores, and farmers’ markets, plus running their own roadside stand seven days a week.
If you’ve had a glass of Martinelli’s apple juice, you’ve probably tasted a Pippin from one of Everett’s trees, but apples aren’t their only crop. Everett Family Farm also produces 30 types of vegetables, Fuyu and Hachiya persimmons, strawberries, Heritage raspberries, and cut flowers for bouquets. The farm’s free-range hens lay organic eggs.
Everett also sees the farm as a vehicle to educate people about organic farming and healthy living. “The most important thing people can do is buy local food,” says Everett.
To help spread the word, the family was one of 60 farms that hosted an "Outstanding in the Field" event last year, serving dinner alfresco to about 150 guests. The concept of Santa Cruz farmer and entrepreneur Jim Denevan, the dinners are designed to put diners directly in touch with the source of their food. Between rows of corn and lettuce in the farm fields, tables are set with fancy linens and silverware. After the first three courses, guests pick their own berries and hand them over to the chef, who creates a fancy dessert for each person. “Our farm dinners are a huge success,” says Everett. “We sold out in one hour.”
Even when guests aren’t present, the Everett family lives what they preach. Breakfast often includes pancakes made from the farm’s organic eggs and milk from the flock of dairy goats. “We don’t buy much at the store. Most of what we eat is grown right here,” says Everett.
Everett believes that education is critical to promoting the benefits of organic food, which is often more expensive than non-organic. “Organic food’s higher cost is due to the additional labor it takes,” he says. He cites the enormous amount of record-keeping required for a farm to keep its “organic” status. Farmers must account for everything they put into the land, as well as everything they take out. Crops and animals must be regularly rotated. To reduce the need for pesticides, organic farmers plant hedgerows of plants that attract predatory insects, which feed on the insects that are destructive to their crops.
Everett Family Farm was Laura Everett’s idea. “We wanted our children to have the experience of growing up on a farm. They work hard here. Each does her chores before school and later in the day,” she says. “A perfect day is when the kids have done their chores, and we all sit down to a meal that comes completely from the farm.”
Rich Everett attributes the farm’s success to the fact that his wife grew up on a family farm in Napa. “My wife is the real farmer. I’m just the hired hand,” he says.
Visit the farmstand at Everett Family Farm at 2111 Old San Jose Rd., Soquel, .
See Grown Local, a photo portfolio of the people who grow our local food.