David and Michelle Silveira

A Small Farm with a “Grande Vision”

dave_in_field_2If David Silveira wasn’t busy farming over 70 varieties of organic vegetables, he’d be busy in the kitchen finding new ways to cook them.

“Some of the best times that I’ve had have been in the kitchen, with uncles and cousins all enjoying a meal, cooking, experimenting with new foods, different recipes and enjoying each others company,” David said. Such is the entertainment value of eating well.

Most recently, David has worked his way through phases of Indian, Italian and Mediterranean dishes. It’s possible that at this very moment he’s whipping up his kids’ new favorite, pho soup, an asian dish made with rice noodles, razor thin slices of beef, covered in broth and generously topped with fresh greens.

That’s one job perk of being an organic vegetable farmer, in season greens are easy to come by. Not to mention the front porch’s far reaching view of the rows of tomatoes, beets, radishes, parsnips and newly planted strawberries. Back behind the house you can stop and smell the basil and get a nice long look at row upon row of leaf lettuce, green beans and broccoli, to name a few.

IMG_3072_diakonDavid got an early start in vegetable farming on the islands of Azores, Portugal where his father still runs beef cattle. He moved to the Central Valley to work with his uncle’s dairy business after high school. While David and his brother were in school in Portugal, they were charged with the job of growing and selling vegetables to the island’s small grocers and produce stands.

“While all the other kids went straight to school and were messing around, we had to go distribute vegetables,” David remembered. “We hated it.”

Of course, it’s obvious now that the work ethic David gained in his early days of farming and his lifelong experience in growing produce have proven very useful. Especially over the last six years since David and his wife Michelle started their own farm, a dream that had been with him basically forever, he said. Michelle married into the farm life and represents it well.

David, Michelle and their two sons Antonio, 9, and Joseph, 10, live on their 60 acre farm, Rancho Piccolo, a name meaning “small farm” in Italian. The name doubles as an homage to the original landowner’s skill with the nimble musical instrument.

The Silviera family have brought a lot of life to Rancho Piccolo. The land had been patiently waiting for years before they came along to farm it because the landowner was holding off for a farmer committed to working the land organically.


Green lettuce in neat rows at Ranch Piccolo

 “It’s been organic since day one,” David said of the ranch. “We farm organically because we believe it is the correct way to farm. It’s the best way to take care of your family and your neighbors and your friends and the earth.”

David says he draws from both his formal education in crop science and from the knowledge he’s gained from his experiences growing produce in his daily decision making on the farm.

To be a specialist in each variety he has growing on the ranch would be impossible. Over the course of the year Rancho Piccolo churns out over 70 different varieties of organic vegetables. So, when trying something completely new, networking with neighbors and getting tips from other growers is an important part of his continued education in finding methods that work.

The more varieties Rancho Piccolo grows, the more diversity off farm customers can see in the produce available to them. That translates to sources of richer and more complete nutrition available to feed local families.

Kale_leafThat’s something that David finds very satisfying.

“I feel like I was called to feed people. To see that happen, to put a seed in the ground and put the faith and work into what you’re doing, and then end up with something that will feed a family – it’s very satisfying to me. I enjoy that,” he said.

David and Michelle are feeding your family with their contribution of tomatoes, leaf lettuce, green beans, turnips, beets, radishes, and daikon to your AHO subscription boxes.