Joe’s Early Girls are a Late-Season Stand Out

Video edited by Dallas Mark

As in the past, Joe Schirmer of Dirty Girl Produce has planted two waves of his famous dry-farmed tomatoes, and the first wave which started coming in at the end of August is currently just hitting its peak. And word is definitely getting around.

Yesterday at the Derby Street Farmers Market, Dirty Girl Produce’s Early Girl tomatoes completely SOLD OUT. There was this beautiful, jewel-like mound of them…and then in the blink of an eye they were gone.

Thankfully, we’re planning well enough ahead to make sure we’ve got some for next week’s Late-Season Tomato Dinners (Sept. 13-16). One of the first confirmed menu items Chef Jonah has revealed is Early Girl gazpacho over a tomato-basil gelée.

Check out this cool, old book on dry-farming.

Signs of Summer


Today marks the first day of Summer 2011 and many signs of the season were on display at the Derby Street Market: fragrant basil, cherry tomatoes from Full Belly, summer squash and those knockout long stem Seascape strawberries from Lucero, and piles of “ripe shamefaced peaches” (had to get in a belated Bloomsday reference) at Blossom Bluff.

But one of the definitive signs that it is truly summer at the Derby Street market is the appearance of our friends from Dirty Girl Produce. And there they were! Right next to a freakin’ harp player!

Seems that Santa Cruz was not as waylaid by rain as it was last year, so most of Dirty Girl’s crops were planted on schedule. Their romanesco was looking particularly lovely today, as well as some smaller bunched broccoli. Coming up: beans. Lots and lots of beans (haricots vert, romano, cannellini, among others) should be arriving from Dirty Girl Produce within the next few weeks. And the official statement on dry-farmed Early Girl tomatoes? ETA: 4-5 weeks.

Market Report #14: Cold Snap and Salsa


The Derby Street farmers market was bustling today, in a pre-Thanksgiving-panic sort of way. But the sun came out and most of our farmers seemed ready for the hordes. And Maria Catalan was ready with samples of her salsa. Catalan Farms has just started selling Maria’s own handmade tomato salsa, tomatillo salsa, as well as organic nopales.

Word on the street is that the weather is predicted to turn quite chilly in the next few days and many areas will more than likely see their first freeze. This means good-bye early girl tomatoes and beans, and hello broccoli, cauliflower, and all those great winter root vegetables. Unbelievably, Catalan Farm still has strawberries:


but these are the last of them. So you’ve got approximately two hours left to get your hands on some before they are gone until next spring.

Tomato Season 2010 off to a slow start

While tomatoes seem to be very late this year and our farmers think most of their crops are three to five weeks behind, looking back on Tomato Watch 2009 gives us some perspective. We’ve got Chef Canales reporting from the Farmers’ Market on July 27, 2009 the “official arrival of tomatoes” so perhaps we are seeing the beginning of a pattern in these later harvests over the last few years.

This year, because the rainy season went so long, we’ve pushed the dates for the 2010 Tomato Dinners

[reserve] back to September 15 – 19 and are watching and waiting. Recently, we’ve seen the first few cherry tomatoes and Sun Golds, and just this week some delicious “ugly” Early Girls.

In the meantime, we had fun revisiting Tomato Watch 2009 so we collected the posts here and thought we’d share:

Highlights include:
Joe Schirmer of Dirty Girl Produce on Dry-Farming in post #2, and then on July 3rd with further dry-farming information. Also, Joe’s own video reports in post #5 and #10 are of special note.

Riverdog Farm explain their growing cycle and how and when tomatoes are picked in posts #18 and #20.

Brookside Farm’s Welling and Ann Tom show us lovely pictures and thoughtful reports on their season in Brendwood, culminating in the October 1st Dead Ripe video.

Dry-Farming with Joe

Click to flip pages

Click to flip pages

When we visited Joe Schirmer of Dirty Girl Produce back in April, he had many things to tell us in regards to climate, planting times, soil quality, and procuring information on patented seeds. But what really piqued our interest, was Joe’s knowledge of the practice of dry-farming, as well as its history. Finding little current information available, Joe tracked down texts dating back to the 1920s in an effort to understand how to grow vegetables using limited water. Here, he imparts some of his wisdom.

Additionally, we found a great online resource, Internet Archive, a non-profit out of San Francisco, that allows you to flip through books like this one from 1909 on dry-farming.


2017-09-12T15:49:01-07:00July 3rd, 2009|Dirty Girl Produce, Farmers|0 Comments

Tomato Watch Week 10 – First Wave of Early Girls

Another thrilling episode from the sunny studios of Dirty Girl Productions!

Last time we heard from Joe Schirmer of Dirty Girl Produce, he had just finished planting his first wave of dry-farmed Early Girl tomatoes.

It is now June and the plants have not been watered since April. But thanks to a well-developed root system, they are looking healthy and robust and are expected to be producing ripe fruit by mid-July. Watch Video.

2017-09-12T15:49:05-07:00June 3rd, 2009|Dirty Girl Produce, Farmers|0 Comments

Tomato Watch Week 5 – Joe Goes Behind the Camera

Joe catching some air

Joe catching some air

Joe Schirmer of Dirty Girl Produce has taken Tomato Watch into his own hands! We had intended to cover the details of dry farming this week, but on Tuesday we received an email from Joe and shortly after that a video he shot himself of his tomatoes being planted. How cool is it to see the process of farming through a farmer’s eyes?

Joe’s email:
The first tomatoes are going out tomorrow at noon. We wanted to wait for the brunt of this heat wave to pass first. So we disked, listed, composted, ripped and now we are watering and we will till the beds in the a.m. and start planting after lunch. Hopefully we will be done planting the first wave Thursday and I will try to remember my video camera and get as much as possible.

Joe’s video:

It was our intention from the beginning to give farmers a space to connect with their community in a more direct forum and in their own voice. So it pleases us to no end to get email reports, pictures and now videos directly from our farmers.

2017-09-12T15:49:07-07:00April 30th, 2009|Dirty Girl Produce, Farmers|0 Comments

Dirty Girl Produce – Tomato Watch Week 2

For this installment of Tomato Watch we took a trip down to Watsonville for a visit with Joe Schirmer of Dirty Girl Produce. We got some cool tractor footage, a crash course in dry farming, and learned all about capillarity!

Dry farming tomatoes can only work when there is coastal fog, making it unique to certain areas. We’ll hear more from Joe about this technique in the following weeks.

Water is going to be another huge issue for all our farmers this year, and there will be more discussion about how they are handling that as the season progresses.

2017-09-12T15:49:07-07:00April 2nd, 2009|Dirty Girl Produce|0 Comments

Dirty Girl Produce – Profile



Established 1996


Joe Schirmer

Joe Schirmer grew up in Santa Cruz and began working at Dirty Girl Produce in 1997 before buying the farm in 1999. A graduate of both UCSC and the UCSC Farm and Garden Apprenticeship Program, Joe worked on several farms gaining experience before striking out on his own.

Schirmer grows premium dry farmed tomatoes that are sweet and lively with minerality. They also supply Oliveto with some of the very best haricots verts and shelling beans.


There are five different plots of land in five different micro-climates allowing for many different kinds of produce. The two most disparate climates are Santa Cruz’s banana belt, where the weather is relatively hot and dry, and La Selva Beach where there is a stronger coastal influence. The river bed soil is some of the most fertile in Northern California.


Farming is a form of activism for Joe, whose aim is to create a better world.

Length of relationship with Oliveto

11 years


12 acres in Santa Cruz Country


Dry farmed tomatoes, haricots verts, strawberries. Secondary crops: salad mix, spinach, arugula, romaine lettuce, radicchio, chard, kale, dandelion greens, leeks, shallots, garlic, onion, radishes, carrots, green beans, Gold Wax beans, Cannalini beans, Tongue of Fire beans, Cranberry beans, basil, parsley, cilantro, turnip, beets broccoli, cauliflower, Romanesco broccoli, cabbage

Organizations / Certification

CCOF certified organic

Joe currently sits on the board of directors for the Center for Urban Education on Sustainable Agriculture which runs the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and is current president of the board of directors for the Santa Cruz Community Farmers’ Markets.


Limited restaurants

Farmers’ Markets

San Francisco Ferry Building – Saturday

Live Oak Santa Cruz – Sunday

Jack London Square – Sunday

Downtown Santa Cruz – Wednesday

Westside Santa Cruz – Saturday

Berkeley Derby Street – Tuesday

Felton – Tuesday


2017-09-12T15:49:14-07:00February 6th, 2009|Dirty Girl Produce, Farmers|0 Comments

From the Kitchen – Tomato Dinners 2009


Wednesday, August 26th – Saturday, August 29th

Make a Reservation

About a week before Tomato Dinners, when most of the tomatoes we will have to choose from are available for tasting, Chef Paul Canales and the cooks sit down with scores of varieties, mostly heirloom but some – like Early Girl-hybrids, and sort out which are the best, what their characteristics are, and how they might be prepared to best advantage. Amazingly, there is considerable variation even within varieties.

Every year, the variables of soil, weather, planting times, irrigation, and various farming practices yield surprising outcomes in flavor and texture. A farmer who produces a magnificent Pink Brandywine one year may offer a less flavorful one the next; but her Mortgage Lifters the same year might be nonpareil. Based on that tasting, each August we purchase around 3,000 pounds of the best tomatoes from local farmers for this joyful event.

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