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Organic niche growers zig when others zag

Allstar Organics grows over 150 varieties of certified organic, specialty and heirloom crops.

By JULIA HOLLISTER

For the Capital Press

Published on March 10, 2016 10:06AM

Julia Hollister/For the Capital Press   
Marty Jacobson and his wife, Janet Brown, grow unique organic vegetables on both cold and warm climate farms in Marin County north of San Francisco.

Julia Hollister/For the Capital Press Marty Jacobson and his wife, Janet Brown, grow unique organic vegetables on both cold and warm climate farms in Marin County north of San Francisco.

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Julia Hollister/For the Capital Press
A selection of Allstar Organics products on display.

Julia Hollister/For the Capital Press A selection of Allstar Organics products on display.


PETALUMA, Calif. — Marty Jacobson and his wife, Janet Brown, were working in two very different arenas: He was in advertising and she in sales, but they both really wanted to do something different.

“Just by accident we ran across Martha Stewart’s magazine that ran a cover article about growing heirloom tomatoes,” Jacobson said. “We bought some seeds and grew some amazing tomatoes. We were encouraged to sell them and went to a local market and the owner, Randy Salinas, encouraged us to grow more. We grew heirlooms because there was a big opportunity in the market.”

Allstar Organics took off.

The business also has two acres of aromatic plants and antique roses at their home in Lagunitas, Marin County, and 10 acres of over 150 varieties of certified organic, specialty and heirloom crops grown on their production field in Nicasio, halfway between San Francisco and Point Reyes Station.

Allstar is a warm weather farm with distinct seasons, and a highly mineralized, clay-based soil.

Its soil enrichment program includes a diverse cover cropping system, microbiological drenches and aged nutritional mulches. As a result, the vegetables acquire vivid color, distinctive texture and intense fragrances and flavors.

“It’s been 20 years since we began fooling around and got some acreage in Nicasio for colder weather crops,” he said. “San Francisco’s Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market gave us an opportunity to be seen and pick up restaurants (as customers).”

Everybody buys different things. The couple grows over an acre of garlic for a special customer. They sell tomatoes to grocery stores and markets.

“Unique crops include a striped cherry tomato mix and caldot, a Spanish onion that sends up shoots the size of small leeks, and is the best onion we ever tasted,” he said. “We also grow hard-neck garlic, green garlic and we grow rainbow chard but only sell to one client.”

Allstar Organics also grows spring onions, red onions, scallions, pea tips, yellow peas, snow peas, English peas, snap peas, dragon beans and Romano beans, purple beans and green beans.

The soil in each location is different. The sandy soil in Petaluma is high in nutrients and the clay-based soils adapt to the warmer climate. Both result in healthy plants.

“Nicasio is a cold weather field,” Jacobson said. “We learned how to grow onions, green garlic and fava beans. We sell the fava leaves, small beans and the large fava beans. We also kill it back for a cover crop.”

Tomatoes are the most abundant crop. There is a blend of purple and red-gold tomatoes, a specialized

cherry tomato, peppers, 10 different summer squashes and zucchini.

“We are zigging when others are zagging,” Jacobson said.

“We are attempting to be inventive so that we can prosper. We have balance and are dedicated to local agriculture.”



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