Growing up in Salinas — the “Salad Bowl of California” — Rudy Jimenez was confronted with a choice by his father, who had been working on farms for 30 years: either go to school, or you are going to end up in the fields.
He made a decision to stay in agriculture, but to do it his own way.
“In 2014 I started farming in Salinas,” he said. “Our 5-acre organic farm is located in San Juan Bautista, where we grow 60 different varieties of vegetables year around that include our most popular, Dino-Kale.”
In the past couple years, kale has become the “Cinderella” of greens. Kale, contrary to popular belief, is not a member of the lettuce family. Nestled in the “Super Food” category, it is part of the Brassica family and related to broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, collard greens and cauliflower.
Jimenez said it has gained status for its nutritional value and ease of preparation. He grows three varieties: Dino Kale, Purple Kale and Curly Kale.
Jimenez also gives back to those who mentored him at the Agriculture and Land-Based Training Center (ALBA) in Salinas.
ALBA’s mission is to create economic opportunity for limited-resource and aspiring organic farmers through land-based education. The 100-acre training facility is for hard-working, low-income farm workers and aspiring farmers seeking a better life.
In 2014, he went through the ALBA program with his father.
“I wanted to give him the opportunity to see that the small farm could thrive around big agriculture,” Jimenez said. “I learned the different varieties of crops to grow in what season, as well as pest management, organic farm production, marketing, record-keeping and labor law. ALBA is great opportunity to learn what tools you need to become successful farmer and a great place to make dreams a reality.”
Green Thumb Organics invites students from East Salinas’ low income communities to visit the farm where workshops show where their food is grown. These illustrate sustainable practices about growing their own food. These “hands on” classes teach kids how prepare fresh meals and provide their families with vegetables.
The farm program also offers healthy farm-fresh meals for the children who visit.
“I also work for nonprofit Urban Art Collaborative, where I do food justice workshops around healthy food and using art as a vehicle to express yourself,” Jimenez said. “Last week a boy asked, ‘Why do you farm?’”
“I farm because I need access to organic vegetables and because the average age of a farmer in California is 59,” he replied. “I want to inspire the new generation to be farmers of the future.”