From the Field – Spring at Lucero Organic Farm

Chef Paul Canales visits the Luceros of Lucero Organic Farm in Lodi, CA.

Spring is a transitional time for many of our local farmers. By transitional, I mean that for many of them this is the time they are putting a great deal of effort into preparing for the abundance of summer crops that comprise the majority of their growing season. They are planting and germinating seeds in pots in their greenhouses and waiting for the perfect time to transplant them into the field. Too soon, and they might get flooded with a late rain or burnt by frost, too late and they lose valuable opportunities to offer their fruits and vegetables at market.

That said, there are many amazing things (mostly variations on the shade of green) that our local farmers are now offering us. Some of these, like green garlic, are early manifestations of things to come. Others are new representations of things that are passing, like tardivo radicchio. Still others, are here right now and only now, such as fava beans and their greens, asparagus, diciccio broccoli, and flowering rabes from kol crops.

Spring has officially sprung, and will continue to do so!

2017-09-12T15:49:08-07:00March 11th, 2009|Farmers, Lucero Organic Farm|0 Comments

Lucero Organic Farm – Profile


Established 2000


Ben Lucero and Karen Toombs

Ben was raised in Watsonville where he grew up farming. He started his first organic farm in the 1960s, and although he found it difficult to make a living he kept at it. When the farmers’ market movement finally took hold 20 years later he began to turn a profit for the first time. In 2006, Ben’s eldest son, Curtis, returned from the military to work on the family farm.

Karen started out as a loyal Lucero farmers’ market customer. Soon she began lending a hand on the farm where she met Ben.

Chef Canales says that Ben is the one who taught him how tomatoes should be grown, by knowing when and how to restrict watering. And as an extension of that, Lucero taught Canales how tomatoes should taste: intensely concentrated and vibrant with flavor. Along with the amazing variety of tomatoes, Canales also admires the Lucero strawberries, which owe their remarkable flavor to these same practices.


Heat waves in Lodi are severe and can be tough on the crops. Soil types vary from a light sandy loam to a rich, dark, crumbly loam. Each is amended with an organic compost that contains no animal products. Fish emulsion and cover crops enrich the soil with nitrogen, a key plant nutrient. Crop rotation helps to prevent depletion of minerals in the soil.


They strive to produce good, healthy food. Both Ben and Karen love being outside and working with plants.

Length of relationship with Oliveto

12 years (prior farm in San Martin)


Several parcels of land totaling 32 acres in Lodi, in the San Joaquin Valley


Strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes (60 varieties), eggplants (8 varieties)

Secondary crops: okra, watermelon, summer squash, cucumbers


CCOF since 2002


Farmers’ Markets

Berkeley Derby Street – Tuesdays

Berkeley Shattuck Avenue – Thursdays

Berkeley Downtown – Saturdays

Oakland Grand Lake – Saturdays

San Francisco Ferry Building – Saturdays

Menlo Park – Sundays

Palo Alto – Sundays

Oakland Temescal – Sundays

2017-09-12T15:49:14-07:00February 6th, 2009|Farmers, Lucero Organic Farm|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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