Most of us remember our Mothers saying “eat your fruits and vegetables” but have you really considered what is behind that statement? We visit our respective grocery stores each week and see the plethora of produce available but do we ever really stop to think about how that broccoli was grown, what type of fertilizer was used to grow it, how many days it’s been since it was harvested and what it provides for our health?
As part of my weekly health ritual I shop at one of the Santa Monica Farmer’s market on Saturday mornings. Since I try to eat a carrot a day I found the stand that had the freshest, tastiest and healthiest carrots and discovered Alex. Alex Weiser is part of a family heritage of farming. His parents started the Weiser Family Farms in 1977, and Alex joined the family business at age 16, which was around the time farmer’s markets started in Los Angeles. Being a part of the family’s farming business checked off a lot of his bucket list items – having a job that was outdoors, being a vital part of growing crops and the family business besides contributing to his college fund.
If you meet Alex, it’s evident that he loves his job. When I asked him about the best parts of what he does he shared “I enjoy the whole process of farming, preparing the ground, watching the produce come to fruition, and having our crops be on menus and people?s tables.” Being able to have a vision of what to grow, what people enjoy eating and the ability to deliver it, is what keeps him in the farming industry.
When you meet Alex, you soon realize he is the Wikipedia on farming practices. You become immersed in his vast knowledge of how to prepare the crops he has each week besides encouraging his patrons to try different items. When I first met Alex, he tried to get me to taste his beautiful radishes, something I’m not that found of. However, the Weiser radishes are very flavorful (besides being a great prebiotic) and his encouragement helped me (the dietitian) to eat radishes on a regular basis showing the power of one farmer in assisting with health.
The Weiser farm has more crops than can be mentioned but a few are: apples, carrots, potatoes, melons, squashes, radishes, artichokes, parsnips, cauliflower, cucumbers, and cherries. Crops are harvested a few hours to a few days before the markets they are sold at. They use a variety of ways to grow and fertilize crops: organic compost, fish emulsion, and crop rotation to name a few. Crop rotation is essential to keeping the soil nutrient-dense and healthy. Alex states the biggest nemesis in farming are the birds which eat the baby seedings and the fruit as soon as it ripens. And the greatest source of economic loss to his farm are the birds ? something surprising to learn.
When I asked Alex where he sees organic farming going he uses one word – indoors. Since people are demanding organic produce it may be more sustainable inside than out. He stated he doesn’t wave the organic flag too much since things aren’t black and white in farming. True organic produce can be grown and shipped long distances all over the world which results in increased costs, nutrient loss during shipment, etc. His mantra is:
Buy local, seasonal, fresh, and healthy.
What’s great about Farmer’s market is you know the farmer and there is bond and trust between people, and labels, brands, and certifications aren’t as important. Although he works long hours, Alex loves being at the front line and making a connection with his clients. He realizes they are taking a piece of his love home which makes a difference in their lives and health. Although he’s been a farmer for many years, Alex is invigorated each day with something new and exciting he discovers or rediscovers.
When asked about evolvement of farming he states “we have only just begun and I try to make farming a fun challenge. As long as I can make a living and create a positive influence in people’s lives that is all I can ask for.” Alex is living within his values and helping to create Life Style Solutions for those he comes in contact with – one market at a time.