Lunch at Avanti

My research has shifted from scouring newspaper archives for mention of crops grown one hundred years ago, to interviewing local movers and shakers – or shall I say planters and harvesters – of our current food movement.  Last week I had the pleasure of interviewing Thomas Wittman. Most recently of Gophers, Limited fame, he also happened to live and farm at Molino Creek, a co-op which is a manifestation of the sustainable farming movement in Santa Cruz County. Founded in the early 1980’s, Molino Creek is an intentional community organized by graduates of the UCSC Farm and Garden, among others, to grow food and live collaboratively. They also happened to bring us the Dry Farmed tomato, for which we are eternally grateful.

Thomas’s name had been given to me by no fewer than three people as someone to talk to about our famed Dry Farmed tomatoes. These jewels of our farmer’s markets were cultivated first by the folks at Molino Creek, lead by the storied Dick Wadsworth. I was hoping Thomas could answer some questions about dry farmed tomatoes, and Dick Wadsworth. Thomas and I met at Ristorante Avanti on a Tuesday. Paul, the proprietor, greeted Thomas as a friend. Apparently the bar at Avanti is a local farmer watering hole. We were lucky enough to have the sea bass special, with a peach chutney and fried green tomato on the side.

Thomas proved charming and helpful, and gave me some colorful anecdotes to follow up on, including names of Royalty who enjoyed Molino Creek’s tomatoes! My next lines of inquiry will be whether the Ohlone or any other local native folks dry farmed, and whether dry farming would become more common as the drought wears on. If you know of any resources to help with those questions, do let us know!

– Jody Biergiel Colclough

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