Santa Clara University Visits Trio of ALBA Farmers

Submitted by Melissa Reynen, Marketing Manager

Marsha Habib and Juan Catalan relaxing at Catalan Farms in Salinas

Santa Clara University, in Santa Clara, CA, is located just north of some of the richest coastal farmland in California, on which grows a variety of crops from lettuces, to artichokes, to strawberries. Marketing Manager Melissa Reynen, student garden volunteer and Bon Appétit student employee Danny Paikoff, and local photographer Greg Wight decided to head out on a combination fact-finding mission and photo safari to three of the coastal farms that supply SCU, in order to gather photos and stories to share with the SCU community.

Besides location, all three farms have another thing in common: Their farmers are all graduates of the Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association in Salinas, CA. ALBA trains and creates economic opportunities for small farmers, many of whom are former farmworkers. New farmers in the ALBA program get access to land they can use, while gaining the skills they need to farm and run their businesses.

Here’s what else the three SCU members learned about each farm.

Catalan Farms, a 14-acre property in Hollister, CA, is run by matriarch Maria Catalan, who was an early graduate of ALBA and one of the first Latinas to run and manage her own organic farm. Catalan Farms supplies Bon Appétit with a variety of vegetables and fruits and also delivers fresh produce to students, faculty, and the entire SCU group through its CSA (community supported agriculture) program, The Laughing Onion.

Marsha Habib of OYA Organics shows SCU’s Adobe Lodge Executive Chef Tiana Driggins some tender pea shoots

OYA Organics was founded by Marsha Habib, who got her start at Santa Clara University’s Bronco Urban Garden (BUG) demonstration garden and through the farm apprenticeship at UC Santa Cruz. She now leases  three acres near Catalan Farms. A community resource and distribution hub for other small farmers in the area, OYA supplies Bon Appétit with an amazing array of produce including organic tomatoes, strawberries, chilies, tomatillos, and cilantro.

Rigoberto Bucio, a former migrant farmworker who is in his early 20s, graduated from ALBA three years ago and grows produce in San Juan Bautisa on four acres. He works with OYA Organics to distribute to Bon Appétit, and is known for having the sweetest organic strawberries.