All Photos by Garrick Ramirez
Packed full of colorful vendor stands, Santa Cruz farmers markets can feel like a riot of vibrant flowers, fruits, and veggies. Yet, hidden behind each stack of romanesco broccoli is a local farm with a story to tell. One example is Live Earth Farm, a market mainstay that lures tote-wielding foodies with fresh organic produce. Get to know them better, and you’ll discover they offer a lot more than sweet berries and succulent tomatoes, including a dreamy countryside property with farm stand, kids camps, and seasonal U-pick events.
Set in the bucolic Pajaro Valley of Watsonville, Live Earth Farm was founded in 1995 by Tom Broz and his wife, Constance. A former staff member for the Environmental Protection Agency, farmer Tom doesn’t take land usage concerns lightly. With Live Earth Farm, Broz grows a wildly diverse assortment of organic produce with a priority on sustainability and healthy soil. The farm harvests roughly 50 varieties of fruits and vegetables, and is renowned for their strawberries, blackberries, carrots, dry-farmed tomatoes, and unique varieties of apples. In addition to Santa Cruz Community Farmers’ Markets, you’ll find their produce at local grocers such as New Leaf and Staff of Life, and local eateries including Soif and The Penny Ice Creamery.
Visit the Farm
During warm weather months, the most enjoyable way to bring home their produce is by visiting their farm, a special opportunity since very few local farms are open to the public. From May through October, you’re welcome to visit their pastoral Watsonville property, stroll the scenic grounds, and nab ultra-fresh fruits and vegetables from their farm stand (open Saturday & Sunday, 10 a.m. - 3 p.m., May - October). Better yet, grab a basket and head out into the fields and orchards during their seasonal U-Picks for strawberries, blackberries, dry-farmed tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins, and apples. You’ll also want to attend Community Day Events such as an Outstanding in the Field dinner, the Harvest Fest with cider pressing, and the popular Sheep to Shawl shindig where participants perform a variety of processes—from shearing to dying to knitting—to create a handmade wool shawl.
Direct to You
Since the beginning, Live Earth Farm has modeled itself as a CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture, farm which means the public is invited to contribute a small financial investment, and receive a weekly box of seasonal produce as their delicious dividends. Today, Live Earth Farm delivers customizable orders to pick-up spots throughout Santa Cruz County and beyond—from Palo Alto to Monterey. In the old days, customers would have to figure out what to do with four bushels of radishes. Now, you can log-in online, and select only the items you want that week. Plus, Live Earth Farm partners with other local food producers to offer staples such as fresh loaves from Companion Bakeshop, and pickles and preserves made with Live Earth Farm fruit from Happy Girl Kitchen. It’s an especially convenient option during the winter season when farmers markets are limited and stores are crowded with holiday shoppers.
Farm Discover Programs
Since starting Live Earth Farm, Farmer Tom has placed a premium on community involvement. Beyond the CSA boxes and community events, Live Earth Farm runs youth programs via an associated nonprofit agency, Farm Discovery. The agency hosts a number of programs including field trips for schools, kids summer camps, and overnight immersion stays. Student participants roll up their sleeves, and engage in nearly every aspect of running a farm including row crop production, tending livestock, harvesting produce, running a mock farm stand, and cooking meals in the farm kitchen.For students, and the larger community, they work to cultivate not only fresh organic produce, but stronger ties to nature and the community.
Live Earth Farm is just one of many inspiring, independent farms and food producers operating within Santa Cruz County. For more ways to dig into the local farm scene, check out the other destinations and activities listed on our site.