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
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