Kenter Canyon Farms, Fillmore
Kenter Canyon Farms originated as a family farm in Northern California that grew Mesclun, the French slang term for "mix" describing a blend of small, young leaves of arugula, lettuces, dandelion, frisée, chervil, and whatever the garden yielded any given day. Kenter's organic vegetables were on the menu of Chez Panisse created by Alice Waters, pioneer of California cuisine focused on organic, sustainably grown ingredients.
Kenter Canyon founder Andrea Crawford saw the possibility of developing the salad model she had created for Waters, and approached Spago's Wolfgang Puck to see if he would like this kind of salad for his restaurant. He didn't hesitate and in 1985, Crawford and her family relocated to Los Angeles where they developed the first urban salad garden.
Today, Kenter Canyon Farms is based in Fillmore, with seven additional ranches nearby ranging from 10 to 40 acres each dedicated to certified, organic farming. "We chose Kenter Canyon Farms because they are famous for their quality and sustainability in the organic gourmet baby lettuce market," said Shallom Berkman, Urth Caffé co-owner.
"We're one of the few remaining small organic growers of these commodities," Kenter Canyon co-owner Robert Dedlow explained to Urth's Chef Davide Diova during a recent tour. "This is a niche that has been taken over by very big agricultural concerns. But we're still doing it locally to supply the L.A. area." Dedlow and Diova visited a propagation house where perennial herbs such as marjoram, tarragon, rosemary, oregano and sage are being nurtured for harvest in the fall. Every 20 minutes the crop is irrigated by overhead misters.
Showing a stem of kale, Dedlow pointed out a ladybug. "That's what you want to see. The ladybug is a beneficial insect, a predatory insect that eats aphids," he explained. "You can see that this has not been treated with any systemic chemical or pesticide. If it had, the lady bug couldn't life there."
"That's what organic agriculture is all. It's about letting nature take its course."