Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Start of Knoll Farms, in Kristie's Words

Basically, I grew up in Southeast Texas from the time I was zero until 11. Then from the time I was 11 to 19 I lived in Orange County, California....I basically lived in Orange County ‘til we moved – ‘ til Rick and I moved up here in ’79.

We thought it would be kinda cool to live in the Bay Area. We were dying to get out of LA, Orange County. We both came from garden backgrounds. I grew up with a big garden in Texas and Rick had a big garden in Norwalk where he grew up. We decided we both wanted to eat healthy. We had a nice backyard garden. Our whole backyard was garden. Then when we had the opportunity to move up here we had the idea to buy a 1-acre place with a nice house. We looked at some properties and they were way over what we wanted to pay and this was way over what we wanted to pay. 10 acres of alfalfa, that’s it and one building. We actually became farmers as soon as we moved here.

When we moved onto this property, we had 3 mortgages. The little garden that we planted and the alfalfa that we were growing were our pocket money. I got a job as an inventory clerk at the John Deere dealer. I wanna say we farmed the alfalfa another year. In the early winter of ’81, we decided to plant the fruit trees. We figured if we could eat fruit for as long as we could, we’d be happy. So we planted 9 different varieties of cherries, 3 different varieties of apricots, 2 different plums , 9 peaches, 9 nectarines, 3 figs, 3 pears. Each variety was a 200 foot row. Right around 600 fruit trees. And we had part of the property out back. So in the summer we decided we wanted to plant melons, Crenshaw melons into ground that had been alfalfa, they were to die for.

By January, we were out of money.

We tried for several years to make the money last all year but we couldn’t. We had to farm. If we were going to farm we needed something to keep us going year round.

We weren’t like the other people around here. We didn’t come from a farming family didn’t have it in our blood. So he thought that having a degree would give him more credibility. Planting the 600 fruit trees made it a little more than a garden. The 600 fruit trees was insane. Other than providence taking its course, you know, maybe we were supposed to be here. It wasn’t really anything that we planned. Except for the thing when I said, we’re gonna have to have income year round: leafy greens and stuff. Then he got the bright idea.. planted garlic in the fall.... He decided he would make it a product. He started planting it in beds. We were gonna haul ‘em all out of the ground and sell ‘em when we needed the money. We knew nothing really when we started doing this, it’s amazing.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Anne Tom, Oral History

When we first arrived: Everyone was so friendly. We had, you know, lots of Mexican students and -- Chinese Asian, my kids were the only ones, the three in elementary school. There were grown Asian Chinese people they were the children of the owner of Centro-Mart. But they were, you know, already grown. But I met the owner Mr. and Mrs. Wong who owned a small grocery on Oak Street, just right next to Chevron gas station now. They were the nicest people and welcomed us. “Oh we have not seen Chinese students in this community for long, long time.” Especially Welling, he was such a rascal, he was active and he would not just stay around-- he roamed around, just raced around the store. And, so Mr. Wong was very happy to see a little Chinese boy running around. And always gave him bubblegum and stuff like that. And also, we were fortunate and have nice neighbors on Eureka Avenue. And in a way, nothing much changed on Eureka Avenue.... Mr. Wolfe always came by and advised me. ... Gradually, he even taught me how to prune trees....Especially now that he is gone, my memory of him – every time when I prune trees, I thought of him... I am so different – ethnic, look -- and whatever – I am so totally different -- but we were accepted to this neighborhood.

I always bumped into friendly people. They always looked at my 3 boys, they were like a little 3 steps because age-wise they were so close and they were handsome... Wherever we went I met friendly people and they had good friends in school and their parents also were nice....We were accepted to this family and that made me feel at home.

Now: The new residents seem to have no respect for anybody. Among themselves and more so to the older residents whether in age or in, you know, chronological order. They have no respect for the people who already live here. On the roads they say, you know, “Who cares about you farmers? Who cares about you? Small town people.” That is the arrogance... They have no respect to anybody who is their neighbor. For instance, let me illustrate how bad it can be. A few years ago when the new Safeway opened there was a big thing in Brentwood and I shopped there too. And I met a young mother with a cute little baby boy, wearing boots, like hiking boots -- so cute on him. I was getting in line to pay and she was ahead of me and I just made a remark, “Those are beautiful boots! What are you going to do with them? Are you going hiking?” Or something -- just talk to the baby. And the mother--I don’t think she’s probably in the mid 20’s or late 20’s -- and she turned around and looked at me: “Oh do you like my baby? You want to work for me?” And I looked at her as okay, I dress sloppily and I am an ethnic person – I need work? But I would not expect someone to say to me ...“be my babysitter!”, you know, a nanny or something. And I said “no, I have a farm to take care of.” That would be even worse. “A farm, why you want to work on a farm?” so I said, “It’s my choice.”....So, that’s how I come to see the new people, especially the younger people. They show no respect to other people. They come here and they get a big house -- they are the queen and king. You know, “we can do anything here.” So that kind of attitude really upsets me.... All they know is: “I drive an SUV, I drive an expensive car, I have a big house and blah, blah, blah.” That’s all! “We are above you, we are superior to you.” You can have your way, I am happy with my way.