Today started with a guided walking tour, sponsored by the Elverhoj Museum of History and Art, of the newly designated Santa Inés Historic Park with property steward Wayne Sherman. Joining me were friends Deborah (aka Gypsy, for those who followed my Morocco blog) and Joan.
The tour began at the Old Mission Santa Inés, one of California's 21 missions spread out between San Diego and Sonoma that was founded in 1804 by Father Estévan Tapis of the Franciscan order. We learn that much of the original church was destroyed in an 1812 earthquake centered near Santa Barbara. Next, we head downhill through an old Mission walnut grove and past a relatively newly replanted olive grove to one of California's earliest industrial sites — a once water-powered grist mill (1819) and fulling mill (1821). The latter permitted the production of much finer wool cloth.
While the former property owners did a lovely restoration of the old mill buildings, the State Historic Parks, in my humble opinion, were remiss in not replanting heirloom olive varietals that would have been authentic to this property — especially since they are growing olives now in hope of generating some needed funding to offset the expenses of managing the property.
Next, we head to the Tutti Frutti hoop greenhouses to discuss the organically farmed heirloom tomatoes and other row crops they produce. Unbelievably (and sadly), we are told that 50% of their production is sold through national chain grocery stores such as Whole Foods and Safeway, while 10% is sold through the several weekly farmers markets in Santa Barbara / Montecito / Goleta and the Food Bank, and 40% goes unsold / unused. Incredible. Part of our discussion is the need to bring farmers such as Tutti Frutti in contact with local restaurants, schools, hospitals and other end-users. However, it also seems hard to understand why the cost of their produce at Farmers Markets is priced lower in order to sell more. Or, why someone has not created a local business to use the healthy, yet unsold produce to make commercial sauces, tapanades, etc. And, at this point we are only talking about one farm and one of their crops!
To be fair, the 50% of tomatoes being sold through national chain grocery stores has more to do with their crazy notion that consumers only want certain size and perfectly round tomatoes. Really, Whole Foods . . . get real!