California’s wine country combines an unforgettable abundance of locally grown produce with world-renowned wines. We partnered with Chef Ari Rosen and the team of local artisans and farmers behind his Healdsburg restaurants, Scopa and Campo Fina, as they celebrate both with a family-style meal that brings our Open Kitchen collection to life. Read our interviews with the team and try Ari’s recipes here.
What is your background? Have you always been interested in farming?
I began my career during college working at a small, family-owned nursery in Michigan. Right away I realized working with plants was something I enjoyed doing. I also worked as a grower in a large, wholesale nursery before moving with my wife to California. Here in California I worked at a native plant nursery before transitioning to farming.
How did you come to work at Mix Garden? What is your role there?
When my son was born in 2008, I took time off from working to be a stay-at-home dad. During this time, we lived in the country in Petaluma and I created a vegetable garden for fun. I loved that for the first time, I could walk out my back door, pick veggies, and cook up something healthy and delicious for my family. When I was ready to go back to work I was lucky enough to find this job. I was looking for a change and Mick was looking for someone to help him grow and develop this side of his business. He hired me as the produce department manager, which means I manage the farm and gardens as well as the relationships with chefs and customers.
Describe your typical work day at Mix Garden.
The work day begins when the sun comes up. I meet the crew at the store where we get the restaurant orders and discuss a plan for the day. Everyone heads out to the farm and we harvest, wash, and pack what’s needed to fulfill the orders. This can take anywhere from 4-5 hours. When the crew takes their lunch break, I usually start taking veggies back to the store to get deliveries ready. Once there, I work with a few others to assemble the orders and box them up. We deliver for the remainder of the day. While this is happening, the crew at the farm does their daily tasks – weeding, transplanting, seeding, field preparation, etc.
What is your farming and food philosophy?
We provide sustainably raised farm-to-table produce. We do not rely on toxic chemical pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. Instead, we protect the land and soil by growing a variety of plants and using techniques such as crop rotation and cover crops.
What do you grow at Mix Garden? What is your favorite growing season?
We are extremely diversified in what we grow. We focus on growing the highest quality fruits, vegetables, and starts. My favorite growing season is summer because of the variety of vegetables we are able to grow. I especially love the tomatoes – we grow over 80 varieties.
Tell us about your relationships with chefs and restaurants. Which restaurants use produce from Mix?
We are grateful to have partnerships with some of the finest restaurants in Sonoma County. Scopa, Campo Fina, Barndiva, Diavola, Spoonbar, and Farmhouse are some of the many restaurants we supply. We also have relationships with several local caterers. Once we work closely with a chef, we can tailor what we grow to meet his or her specific needs or preferences. Each relationship is unique and valuable.
Any tips for home gardeners about growing produce?
Grow what you like to eat.
What are your future plans for the farm?
We will continue to expand the farm as the demand for our produce grows.
Do you cook with the produce you grow at the farm? What are you favorite things to cook?
Yes, everyday. Our fridge is always stocked with whatever veggies are in season. My family loves our eggplant, lettuce and tomatoes right now. My kids especially love the sweet corn and strawberries and are eagerly awaiting the watermelon. Other times of year, kale and winter squash are the favorites.
What’s for dinner tonight?
I’ll fry up some Padron peppers with sea salt and then make up a cucumber/tomato salad. We have some sausages to grill and will also throw some eggplants, nardello peppers, and zucchini on the grill. Add a fresh loaf of bread and we are good to go.