Interview with Fernando Calderon, The Patch, Sonoma, CA

How did you get your start with The Patch?
Really, it was my grandfather. We learned how to garden from my grandpa in Mexico. He was the one who taught us everything. My brother worked for The Patch for ten years before he and our other brother and I took it over in 1996. Today we farm 20 acres in Santa Rosa and six acres in Sonoma.

What do you love most about the work?
I love seeing the vegetables grow! Just being out in the middle of the field, it’s so quiet and peaceful but I also like meeting people at the Farmers Market. We’ve got a lot of regular customers!

What is your go-to recipe this time of year?
We grow 18 varieties of tomatoes and I love to make a tomato salsa with many types of tomatoes, instead of just one. (See below for recipe)

How does the Napa Farmers Market support your farm?
The farmers markets we sell at are about 70 percent of our business. We depend on people coming back and knowing who we are.

What’s new at the Patch?
Every year we try to be a little earlier in bringing ripe tomatoes to the market. Our little spot in Sonoma is a little warmer than the surrounding area. And, we have hoop houses and cold frames so that plants are ready to go into the ground as early as possible. We grow a little of everything but we’re really proud of our tomatoes!

Tomato Salsa by The Patch
– 3 medium fresh tomatoes: we use different variety of tomatoes to make it more interesting. Stems removed, finely diced
– 1 torpedo onion, finely diced
– 2 serrano chiles or 1 jalapeño chile (stems, ribs, seeds removed), less or more to taste
– 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
– Kosher salt taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and let rest a half hour or so before serving. Hot tip: Be careful while handling the chile peppers – use disposable gloves.