When Farm Day is Saturday, residents of the Santa Maria Valley will be able to take a free self-guided tour of local farms to see how their vegetables, fruits and berries are grown, beef cattle are raised, and the right kind. wine is made.
They can also visit other agriculture-related businesses that pack and ship fruits and vegetables, sell farm stalls, test produce, and compost farm waste into nutrient-rich mulch.
One of the 15 sites participating in Farm Day plans to provide visitors with a glimpse of how fresh vegetables end up on their plates as they journey through the “seed to sale” production process. the company.
The family business Bonipak Produce Inc. has been in business since 1932, when Milo Ferini and Dominick Ardantz became partners in a farming operation that now extends to the second and third generations.
“I think they started with sugar beets on a small farm near Guadalupe,” said Derek Eager, Bonipak’s marketing director, adding that the company has since ditched beets but has expanded to other products. .
Eager quickly flips through the list of cauliflower, broccoli, celery, lettuce, cabbage, romaine hearts, spinach, cilantro, parsley and more.
The company also has a secondary activity in berries – blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries.
But vegetables are Bonipak’s main focus, and the company does everything from tillage, planting seeds, transplanting sprouts and harvesting the crops to preparing, packing and shipping them to across the United States.
This makes the sprawling operation at 1850 W. Stowell Road a very busy place, as loads of vegetables are brought in from the surrounding fields, processed, stored in the cooler, and loaded on board large refrigerated devices that roar empty and growl full. by Bonipak. produce.
“We’re excited to be able to invite our community to see what we’re doing,” Eager said. “Although we’ve been here for almost 90 years, there are still a lot of people who don’t know we are here. “
He said Farm Day will be an opportunity to educate people on the importance of agriculture, as they will be able to see sustainable soil practices, soil tests and the planting process.
They will hear about harvesting and integrated pest management, tour the cooler, learn about the expedition and see the semi-trailers, tractors and other farm equipment, Eager said.
“I think people will be impressed with the work that goes into it,” he said.
High school students who operate The Patch will be there with pumpkins, activities for the kids will be offered, and visitors will be able to pick up samples of produce to take home.
“There is something [here] for everyone, ”said Mary Maranville, daughter of a farm worker and founder and CEO of Students for Eco-Education and Agriculture, or SEEAG, which sponsors the third annual Farm Day in Santa Maria.
But beyond vegetables, the business has another goal that the owners see as important.
“The employees – they’re the heart of the business,” said Christine Reade, who modestly describes herself as “just the wife” of Craig Reade, one of the eight owners. “They’re the ones who make it work. “
Reade said owners don’t like to be in the limelight and prefer it to be pointed at the hundreds of people who work for them.
“From the tractor driver who cleans the field before sowing, to the truck driver who delivers across the United States, if they don’t all work well together, you won’t have a successful business,” Reade said.
She offered her husband’s favorite quote: “We’re in the realm of human relations. We happen to grow vegetables.
Eager said many employees have worked at the company for 30 years.
“It’s important that people appreciate the place where they work,” he said. “It’s good that we are growing healthy vegetables. “
Farm Day even allowed many employees to show their children what they are doing.
“One of the things that I love, and that I said after the first day on the farm, is that the employees could bring their families and they could see where [their parents] worked, ”Maranville said.