24 hours with 5th Crow Farm

When I moved to Santa Cruz one of the first friends I made was a woman named Teresa Kurtak.  Teresa and her business partners  Mike Irving and John Vars were looking for land to lease so they could start a small organic farm.  They found what they were looking for in Pescadero, and are now in their third growing season there.

Most of the photos I see of small-scale organic farms present them as rural idylls – beautiful, bucolic, peaceful.  My experience watching 5th Crow Farm grow is that organic farms may be beautiful but usually entail working long, hectic days.  My urban lifestyle is probably a lot more peaceful!  Certainly that’s what I thought after tagging along with Teresa while she worked this weekend.  Here are some of my photos and a blow-by-blow account of what we did…

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8:30 pm, Saturday night: I stop at the grocery store on my way to the farm to buy dinner for Teresa and Mike. They’ve been harvesting for the Sunday farmers’ markets all day and haven’t had time to think about dinner yet.

9:15 pm:  I arrive at Mike and Teresa’s yurt on the farm.

9:30 pm:  Teresa and Mike have dinner, and then Teresa starts to prepare the printed materials she needs for the next day’s special event at the California Academy of Sciences.

10:00 pm:  The printer isn’t working so Teresa heads out to find a working printer elsewhere.  I go to bed.

Midnight:  Teresa goes to bed.

3:16 am, Sunday morning:  Roosters start crowing.   : (

4:30 am: Alarm goes off.    : (

4:45 am: Teresa and I get in the market truck, which they loaded yesterday, and hit the road.

5:30 am: We stop to pick up coffee to help keep us awake on the road.  I also buy a pastry for my breakfast.

5:43 am: Dawn.

6:10: We’re the first ones to arrive at the site of the Inner Sunset Farmers’ Market in San Francisco.  I try not to feel too guilty for taking photos instead of helping Teresa unload the truck and set up her stand…

7:00 am:  Teresa’s market helper, Anne, shows up and pitches in.

8 am:  After they’ve unloaded the truck, we repark it in Golden Gate Park, and go back to finish setting up Teresa’s stand.

8:15 am:  Robert MacKimmie of City Bees shows up and begins to set up his stand next to ours.  Robert has become a good friend of the farm and is Teresa’s regular post-market dinner date.  Today he’ll also be featured at the California Academy of Sciences’ first Local Bites event after the market.

8:35 am.  I go across the street to Arizmendi Bakery to buy more coffee to help Teresa and Robert get through the morning rush.  By the time I get back the market is officially open for business and there’s already a long line at the 5th Crow stand.  Teresa spends the rest of the market lifting crates of produce and answering questions from the customers while Anne handles the money.


12:00 pm:  Two of Teresa’s dedicated regular customers show up to help out, giving Teresa and me a chance to get her strawberry samples out of the truck in Golden Gate Park and walk over to the California Academy of Sciences to get the lay of the land.

1:00: By the time we’re done at the Academy of Sciences, the market has officially closed so we pick up the truck and drive it back to the market to load.  Teresa, her helpers and Robert all pitch in to load the truck in a hurry.  We drive it over to the Academy of Sciences, unload onto small carts and wheel the goods into the event-space.  The vendors aren’t allowed to sell their products at the event, but Teresa brings some for display to give the guests a sense of what she grows.  We get there late and set up her table while the band plays and the guests are moving around tasting the samples.  Teresa gives out samples of strawberries, edible flowers and kholrabi, while continuing the lifting and talking that she’s been doing all day.

3:00: Bathroom breaks are hard to come by!

4:30:  The event winds down early and we start packing up the produce, loading it back onto the carts, and wheeling it out to the truck to reload.  

5:30 We take a break to stand around and talk with the helpers.  Then we drive the truck back to the market site, which is once more a parking lot, unload Robert’s stuff into his own car, and find a place to eat.  Teresa talks with her hands a lot.

6:15: Dinner! This is the first time Teresa has sat down since getting out of the truck at 6:10 in the morning.  Robert is still wearing his bee antennae  : )

7:30: We walk to a cafe to buy coffee to help Teresa stay awake on the drive home and get back on the road.

8:44: Dusk

9 pm:  We get back to the farm.  Teresa decides to postpone unloading the truck until tomorrow morning and I drive home.

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To see more photos from my day with Teresa, click here.

5 thoughts on “24 hours with 5th Crow Farm

    • Thanks Andy. It seems to me like more time to sleep and relax for these folks would mean not having to rely on the farm for their entire income, or some serious policy changes at the national level that would support small-scale farms. You might enjoy reading Kristin Kimball’s “The Dirty Life,” which also gives a good sense of the intense work these kinds of farmers do and is a great read. There were lots of things she wrote that my friend Teresa has told me about her life too, so it felt like an accurate depiction… Also, the first few years of any new business are going to be tough, so I think they have some hope that things will ease up a bit in the future…

  1. Thanks for the post, long hard days indeed! We have been getting produce from Teresa and the 5th Crow Gang for some time at the San Mateo farmers market and have joined their CSA this season. It’s been great receiving a farm fresh box of produce every Wednesday, we love it, and recommend joining to support them on an onging basis.

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