These are the Claires! Maybe the title ruins the surprise, but besides being a gorgeous family, the Claires run Claire Family Farms, which includes a number of small farms and organic groves around Moreno Valley, Highland and Redlands, CA. They focus primarily on strawberries, citrus, avocados, and pumpkins, all of which we have used in the creation of our products. The Claires are the kind of people who inspire us at N7; they are constantly looking for new ways and opportunities to not only farm responsibly, but to include their immediate community in the process as often as possible.
We took a trip out to the Claire's avocado farm back in November of 2014. Calvin took us on a tour of the groves that afternoon and shared a little bit about his farm and his vision for the future of farming on the trip.
Calvin's farms are almost entirely in the harsh desert environment of the Santa Ana River Basin. Most of his farms have, or will have had, complete irrigation, vegetation, and soil overhauls between the time he took possession of them and the time he finally harvests its first crop. This process isn't simple. As a small family farm, every member of his family has had to make sacrifices in order to overcome seasonal dependency, the high cost of farm certification, regional governmental sectioning, and the constant fight against mechanical equipment. But unlike most of us, this doesn't phase the Claires. In fact, you might say they relish it. Seeing their eyes light up at the thought of more open irrigation or the opportunity to start growing blueberries ignites a passion in your own heart that starts to change the way you imagine farming in the future.
Prior to choosing the life of a humble farmer, Calvin served his community as a fire fighter for the forest service. During his career he witness and the life and death of many of his brother and sisters who put their life on the line to save ours. While the amazing products he grows are what brought him to us, it is his long history of dedication to improving his community and country that endeared him to us. Seeing Calvin at work restoring the land that made this country the bread basket of the world is amazing.
What Calvin does to a plot of land is a long and arduous process. Aside from all of the painful ownership and property classification processes, the Claires always start with making sure the soil is perfect. Through regional relocation and tender care, Calvin and his crew take dry, hard-packed, rocky soil and make it suitable for healthy plants. They ensure that the soil is completely free of pesticides and unnatural chemicals so that none of their food is compromising to the people that consume it. Next is the irrigation. Calvin is currently working to bring back natural surge furrow irrigation, which is to flood a specific series of rows or 'furrows' to partially cover the ground in nutrient filled small 'ponds.' This results in an essentially more primal plant that is closer to following the usual means of water consumption; i.e. searching out concentrations of water between rainfalls. Last, to be addressed is the vegetation. Most of the produce the Claires grow have actually become natives of the San Bernardino Valley, avocados originally from Pasadena, oranges that have growth for ages in Redlands, and do you remember the pumpkin patches that always had the towers of hay bales? that's Calvin, and he intends to keep it that way.
Calvin is a laid back, genuine Californian, through and through. He gets excited imagining a future where farms everywhere put the same effort into local farming as he and his family do. We happen to have one of the most fertile regions in the entire country at our disposal and as a result, we have more potential for varied premium farmland than anywhere else. He has plans to slowly move his ownership of farms across the state, and eventually plans to run a conglomerate of farms that exclusively serve restaurants in the surrounding area to dramatically increase the availability of fresh produce that is signature to each farm's location. This is how farming should be done: on a small, locally focused scale, benefiting their community and overall nutritional value of their food.
That's why N7 uses Claire Family Farms; we want to support the same dream. It's only because of farmers like Calvin and his family that we're able to accomplish the goals of locally sourced, responsibly grown, ethically harvested, and all natural foods. This is why N7 is planning to involve itself heavily in the fulfillment of their goals. As the Claires move through Southern California, so will we, providing delicious treats from their equally more delicious ingredients. Look for Calvin's oranges in our Valencia Marmalade Ice Cream and his other produce in upcoming seasonal products (like avocado ice cream, maybe?) for years to come.
To see more photos of their farm, visit Devon Vp's post about his visit to the farm.