Our Story

The seeds for Terra Firma Farm were planted in the late 1980s when Paul Holmes began farming a few acres in the hills west of Winters with a few friends under the name Sky High Farm.  Paul developed a following for his garlic, tomatoes, and other vegetables as one of the founding members of both the Davis Farmers Market and Berkeley Farmers Market.  Sky High Farm was also one of the original members of California Certified Organic Farmers, prior to official state and federal recognition of organics.

In the early 1990s, Paul hired Hector Melendez-Lopez and Paul Underhill (Pablito) as employees. Pablito became a partner in 1993, when the name of the farm was changed to Terra Firma, and Hector joined on in 2005.

Terra Firma started its CSA in 1994 with a few dozen acquaintances at a single drop site in San Francisco’s Mission District (Capp Street).  As word spread and the CSA slowly grew to include other sites in the City, the East Bay, and Sacramento, the farm grew as well.  We rented additional fields for growing vegetables and leased small neglected or abandoned fruit orchards to augment the vegetables.  We currently provide food for 1300 subscriber households farming around 150 acres of vegetables and 50 acres combined of fruit and nut orchards.

Before he became a partner in Terra Firma, Hector became one of its landlords when he and his family purchased 25 acres of land we were already farming, in 1999.  In 2003, with the critical help of CSA subscribers, Paul and Pablito were able to finally purchase 80 acres of land.  With the addition of Hector to the ownership team in 2005, Terra Firma has secure tenure on fully half the total land we farm.

Like the households of many of our subscribers, Terra Firma is a non-traditional version of a “family farm”.  Nonetheless, Hector’s mother Genoveva, father Alfredo, brother Victor, and sister-in-law Juanice all work in critical positions at the farm.

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The Grass is always Greener

For the last four years, growing vegetables in the Sacramento Valley has been quite similar to growing them in the deserts of Southern California, the source of the vast majority of the winter produce eaten in the U.S.  There in … Continue reading

The Tale of the Fly and the Squash

Just ten years ago, our winter squash fields were infested every year by a type of stink bug called, appropriately, the Squash Bug.  Squash Bugs love all kinds of winter squash, spearing both plants and fruit with their probosces and … Continue reading

Double Standards and the “Gig” Economy

Farmers who want to provide an incentive for their harvest crews to work faster use a pay system called “piece rate”.  Workers get paid a certain amount for every pound or other unit of strawberries or tomatoes they harvest.  State … Continue reading