Fighting Fires and Other Adventures in Organic Farming
Robert Jimenez spends his time off growing a portion of your organic vegetables. The rest of the week, you might find him putting out fires across the state. Or possibly tending to his aviary, working masonry jobs, running a wood-splitting business, or working one of the other five small ranches he manages. His farming days are spent outside, doing shovel work, planting, weeding, and driving tractor.
“The best thing about farming is the peace and serenity of being outdoors,” Robert said. “I grew up on a farm, if I could drop everything else and just do one thing, it’d be farming.”
Though he was too young to remember the place, Robert’s grandfather farmed 600 acres near Jalisco, Mexico; his father was a farmer too, immigrating to the United States when Robert was a kid and working as a dairyman until he had saved enough to get the family started farming on their own.
“He saved every dime and penny to get that place, it was his dream,” Robert said about his father, who he considers to be his mentor. “When I’m faced with making an important decision I look back and think, ‘What would my father do in a situation like this?’ It helps me not goof up on the decision making process.”
Rooster Organics, the farm set aside to grow vegetables for Abundant Harvest Organics, is the first of the ranches he’s worked that he has ever given a name.
“You start naming things and you get more of a sentimental value, more of an attachment for them,” he observed, leaning against his pickup truck and looking out over the low rows of newly planted organic eggplants, with an expression that said the same.
He carries an air of tranquility, a quality that must also make him a better wild land firefighter, he’s in his seventh season with the State of California. He’s the kind of man you trust right off; all of his businesses have grown by word of mouth—Robert ended up farming several of his ranches because a neighbor saw what he could do and asked if he would farm their property as well.
Even with his peaceful nature, Robert claims he’s been told that he was an active child, “hard to keep still, always out and about doing things,” and it must be this quality that makes him capable of juggling so many professions at once.
Managing so many professions requires a tough mental game of being able to be focused on the task at hand. Robert makes his rounds like a country doctor, doing his best at each place when he’s there, and then leaves it to tend to the needs of the next place until he circles back around.
Paying attention to detail also helps Robert keep a step ahead of unforeseen challenges, farming’s constant companion. Rooster Organics, for instance, has precisely 11.4 workable acres.
“I walked it with a GPS. If you walk by the road, it’s twelve acres, but if you walk where you’re going to farm, it’s 11.4, that makes a difference,” he said, smiling.
And every last bit of that 11.4 acres is in use, the crop list pieced together like a puzzle to get everything to fit. Even the access avenue between the eggplants and squash was planted with a crop that will be harvested before either of those, so there isn’t any ground not being used toits best potential.
The alfalfa, almonds, and peaches Robert farms on his other ranches go in all directions when it comes time to sell, but the produce from Rooster Organics is meant to end up with AHO subscribers for the most part.
“There’s a good humble feeling inside knowing that someone is going to be nourishing themselves on food you’ve grown, and that they’re trusting you to provide a good quality produce. I’ve seen that difference since we first started planning things,” Robert said about farming for AHO. He sees it as away to be connected to people, a way to serve them.
Rooster Organics is also Robert’s first time farming with a partner, Kyle Reynolds of KMK Farms, one of AHO’s all-star growers. Kyle and Robert had known each other for over a decade, and Kyle had been asking Robert about teaming up to grow organic vegetables for almost as long.
“Kyle was really enthusiastic about his adventures in organic farming, eventually I said, ‘Ok, let’s try it.’ And, so far, we’re really happy about how it’s turning out,” Robert said.
The organic veggies grown on Rooster Organics’ 11.4 acres appear seasonally in your AHO subscription boxes.