Farmer Curtis Lucero likes to tell a joke he heard about farming: “The only way to make a million dollars in farming is to start with two million.”
Though it’s an exaggeration, farming is not for those who want to get rich quick.
“I grew up in Santa Cruz, where my father, Ben, farmed,” he said. “I went into farming full-time in January 2006 after I retired from the Army after 20 years. We purchased the Galt (Sacramento County) farm in June 2018. My father was my partner until he retired recently.”
Lucero grows about 200 varieties of organic fruit and vegetables on 20 acres from March through December. Tomatoes are his biggest crop.
“We’ve grown over 60 varieties of tomatoes in one season,” he said. “We’ve cut it down to around 30 including my father’s own variety — Ben’s Ivory Pear — which has been grown for over 20 years,” he said. “There are many unusual varieties. The Red, Green, White and Black Zebra get a lot of attention at the markets.
“The Indigo Rose tomato is a newer variety that has gotten quite a bit of attention, too,” he said. “It starts out green, then turns purple and gets an orange blush when ripe.”
Thin-skinned tomatoes are the hardest to grow. They are susceptible to cracking, bruising and rotting. Lucero said pests are also a problem during seasons following mild and dry winters.
“Growing organically we utilize drip irrigation on all of our crops not only to conserve water but for weed abatement as well,” he said.
Lucero said his customers are aware of the differences between conventional and organic. He said the family has had many of the same customers for over 25 years.
The farm markets its crops through farmers’ market associations, Facebook, Instagram and their website, www.luceroorganicfarms.net
“We’ve been honored to work with the Lucero family at the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market in San Francisco for so many years,” said Brie Mazurek, communications director of the Center for Urban Education and Sustainable Agriculture.
In spite of regulations, pests and cost of land, Lucero said he would definitely encourage anyone to go into farming as a career.
“Farming is very hard work, but very rewarding as well,” he said. “It brings you closer to nature and becomes more of a ‘way of life’ than a career. You need to be totally committed and not be afraid to fail.”
But there are no guarantees in farming, he said.
“Remember, you can do everything right during the season and still have a less than productive season,” he said. “You’re at the mercy of God and Mother Nature.”
And, he said, “Don’t go into farming thinking you’ll get rich anytime soon.”