The Mendrin Brothers

A Brotherly Partnership and Vegetables as Different as Potatoes and Cabbage.

cabbagesThe first airplane, good humored automotive advice, award winning idiosyncratic films, and enduring fairy tales–all are gifts given to society from teams of brothers.

Subscribers for Abundant Harvest Organics would be quick to add achievements like delicious organic potatoes, greens, and cabbage to the list, fruits of the labor of farmer brothers Jacob and David Mendrin of JND Organic Farm in Madera, California. (The “N”, they joke, is their invisible, non-existent partner.)

Jacob and David are the third generation in their family to farm in the Central Valley. Both sets of their Mendrin grandparents immigrated to California from Russia, where they had been potato farmers.That generation passed the tradition of farming down to the next, and years later, Jacob and David found themselves in the fields working along side their father.

IMG_3224“We’ve been farming our whole lives,” David said. “I absolutely love farming. No one ever says they have ugly children. It’s the same thing with farming, everything you grow is just beautiful to you. I can’t imagine any other way of living, even in the times when it gets tight.”

Before either was even ten years old, Jacob and David were charged with irrigating their father’s almond crop, driving the tractor, and keeping count of the crews of field workers harvesting the pickling cucumbers in their father’s field.

Working alongside family was the most natural choice for the brothers. Growing up they watched their father, grandfather and uncle work together, in farming and in trucking.

“I think we always kind of knew we were going to be partners in it,” David said. In addition to farming, he and Jacob also run a trucking business and “drive truck” (as it is said in the Valley) themselves.

David and Jacob had been involved in conventional farming ventures with their father for all of their adult lives but in 2005 they took over the lease on a forty acre organic plot of land just north of Fresno and dove headfirst into organic production.

 potato_seedIn 2008 Jacob and David met Uncle Vern and worked out a plan to grow exclusively for Abundant Harvest Organics. So, every seed that goes in the ground at JND Farm ends up in one of the subscriber boxes after it reaches maturity. Their very first shipment to AHO was two hundred and fifty pounds of potatoes in 2009.

Learning new growing techniques as well as how to grow a more diversified listing of crops are lessons that come with a lot of trial and error.

When it comes to their forty acres, the two brothers have worked out a system that capitalizes on each of their strengths. David works primarily in the field and Jacob keeps up with the financials and organic certification paperwork.

With as many differences between them as apples and oranges, or more fittingly in this instance, potatoes and cabbage, David and Jacob’s partnership really works.

Take for example Jacob’s neat organized desk space and David’s more haphazardly kept area to illustrate the differences between the two.

“It’s been that way since we were kids,” David commented about the differences. “My mom gave us seeds to plant a garden in the backyard once, just beans and corn or something like that. Jacob did everything right. He pulled the furrows just right, measured out the spacing, the depth for the seeds, all of it. I went over to a different part of the yard and just threw my seeds down, stomped them in the ground a little and that was it,” he said, adding that his plants ended up getting taller than Jacob’s by-the-book garden. “I always laugh at the differences between the two of us, but you know, both sides are needed to make it successful. He’s more the financial end of it, I’m more in the field, but at the end of the day we both sit down and make the decisions together.”

IMG_3221Jacob and David have a meeting spot set up in an open barn with lawn chairs set up overlooking the rows of sprouting vegetables. And, each with a family of their own, (Jacob and his wife Monya have three kids and David and his wife Sharon have two), it won’t be too long until the next generation of Mendrin farmers start learning the lay of the farmland in the Central Valley.

JND Farms weekly contributions to the AHO subscription boxes include potatoes, greens, cabbage, bell peppers, squash, melons, and more, from their family to yours.