One thing becomes crystal clear when you talk to Maricela Gaytan of Gaytan Family Farm: family is all-important.
Maricela is the second generation of Gaytans to work on the 17 year old family farm. Her parents, Edelmira and Albertano, originally met and married in Mexico, before immigrating to the US. They’d grown up and worked on their own family farms during their youth, but upon arriving in the US, Albertano began working as a landscaper and Edelmira worked in sales.
The couple dreamed of owning land of their own out in the country where they could grow their own food and raise their family. Once they’d saved enough money, their dream became reality when they purchased land in Mira Loma, on the outskirts of Riverside.
“We always wanted to share our knowledge of growing food, and the best way to do that is to provide other families with food,” says Maricela, explaining the origins of the farm.
For the Gaytans, farming is very much a family affair. When the farm started, Maricela was 12, and the oldest of four siblings. Like most farm kids, she and her siblings worked right alongside her parents while learning on the job. Today, the family considers her the farm spokesperson, and she’s also in charge of other tasks such as coordinating with market managers at the 20 farmers markets in San Diego, Riverside, and Los Angeles where they sell food.
“Everyone in the family has a role, but all of us know a little bit of everything,” she says laughing.
What started as a small farm in one location managed solely by her parents has grown to 50 acres spread across 5 locations employing 16 family members. Each location has a slightly different geography and climate, allowing them to grow different types of produce that are ideally situated to the specific farm location. Blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, corn, beans, broccoli, lettuce cauliflower… even chicken eggs! Gaytan Family Farm seemingly produces everything you could buy in a grocery store across its various locations.
Maricela’s personal favorite? Blueberries and blackberries, both of which are in season now. Healthy food is very important to them, and nearly all of the food the Gaytans eat is grown right there on their own farm. Not to mention, there are three generations of Gaytans who live, work, and play on the farm, so they’re more than a little invested in making sure they “grow it right.”
The Gaytans work and living arrangements have allowed them to develop family traditions that most families could only dream of. For instance, every week, the whole family gathers together to make Sunday lunch using ingredients harvested from the farm. Of the entire family, Edelmira, the matriarch, has the reputation as the best cook, and is famous for her cactus (nopales) salad.
Other than living and working together, the thing the Gaytans love best about what they do is getting to meet the families they grow food for. “It’s wonderful to get to talk to our customers. It makes us so happy when they tell us how much they love our produce, because we put so much love into growing it for them,” says Maricela.
About a year ago, Maricela met Rafael from Daily Harvest Express at Vista Farmers Market. The two immediately hit it off, and both family-owned companies have been doing business together ever since. “We love that there are organizations like Daily Harvest Express because families don’t always have time to go to farmers markets, but Daily Harvest makes that possible for them. It makes it possible to get to more people and have them eat healthy food.”
The Gaytan’s biggest challenge? Weather. This year, it’s been much colder than normal, so many of their crops are behind where they should be. (Delays translate into lost revenue for farmers.) Last year, they suffered significant losses during the heavy rains.
Nevertheless, given the diversity of the crops they grow combined with their diverse geographical locations, Gaytan Family Farm is as well-positioned as possible to make it through tough times, similar to the way that having a diversified stock portfolio guarantees you don’t lose all your investments if one stock crashes.
Asked what future plans the Gaytan family has for the farm, Maricela says they want to expand, little by little, each year while growing even more crop varieties. “I can’t see ourselves doing anything else other than this. It’s so nice to be able to do this as a family and share it with other families.”
The next generation of Gaytans is in training to help with those future plans. Maricela talks excitedly about how one of her nieces is starting her first garden this week. The family wants her to know from a young age that “growing food is hard work and she should be appreciate of the fact that if she works hard, she’ll get the fruits from her labor.” Her niece is only three years old!
At Daily Harvest Express, we’re proud to be able to support farmers like the Gaytans, while bringing you the highest quality, local produce from their farm to your table.
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