At Oakville Grocery we proudly feature produce from Rudd Farms, a beautiful 7 acre farm atop Mt. Veeder. Farmer Omar works closely with our Chef Jason Rose to decide what to plant and when to harvest. Everything is grown from seed in a greenhouse and transferred into the ground as a seedling. When crops are harvested Farmer Omar delivers us the produce the very next day. Now that is fresh! We had a chance to sit down with Omar and pick his brain about the farm and what’s to come for Spring.
Q: How long have you been working for Rudd Farms?
A: Two years.
Q: How did you first get into farming?
A: My mom put me to work pulling weeds in the garden when I was four years old.
Q: What was your goal with the farm when you started?
A: To design and implement a biological system of production customized to the site at Mt Veeder. Optimizing it’s advantages and minimizing it’s drawbacks.
Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
A: Producing food for people on such a challenging site as Mt Veeder. Watching folks at Dean & Deluca, Oakville Grocery and PRESS RESTAURANT eat the stuff we grow, oblivious to the fact that the day before I personally plucked it from the ground or pulled it out from under a chicken. The filthy dude in the messed up hat standing next to them in line provided them with something yummy and healthy and they have no idea. That makes me smile.
Q: What was the most difficult thing about working with heritage turkeys? How about the mangalitsa pigs?
A: Heritage turkeys are awesome birds. They’re tough, smart, strong, friendly and they can fly. They will come right up to interact with you. Even let you touch them but they know you have no business picking them up and that’s when the trouble starts.
Mangalitsas are great too. They are such wonderful animals to work with. Low maintenance, easy going, like getting scratched behind the ears. Only draw back is you really can’t move, by force, an animal that’s two foot tall and outweighs you by a hundred pounds.
Q: What is currently growing on the farm? How does the collaboration with the chefs work?
A: Currently we are growing cool season crops like lettuce, spinach, chard, broccoli, beets, carrots, arugula and kale. We are starting warm season crops in the greenhouse like tomatoes,bell peppers and egg plant. The chefs determine what I grow. I grow what’s on the menu as the season allows. We are in constant communication.
Q: What crop are you most excited for this spring?
A: This spring I’m most excited about lettuce! We are trying to provide all the lettuce to all the locations this year. As in two thousand heads of lettuce per week. This will be a challenge.
Q: How do you decide what to plant on the farm?
A: I decide what to plant based on what the chefs want and by what does best in the climate on Mt. Veeder. A lot goes into which variety of a specific crop I choose to grow such as hardiness, yield, disease resistance etc. but at the end of the day it’s about taste. Which means I grow a lot of heirloom, open pollinated crops. These are old genetic lines that were grown for their flavor not for their ability to be stored and shipped. For instance I grow “Bloomsdale Long Standing” spinach because it’s the tastiest damn spinach on the face of the earth. Not because it’s easy to harvest mechanically or ships well.
Q: What items do you currently provide for Oakville Grocery, PRESS, and Dean & Deluca?
A: Currently we are supplying lemons, beets, rainbow chard, spinach, arugula, lettuce, broccoli rabe, carrots pea tendrils and eggs.
Q: What is your favorite thing to cook? How about your favorite after work beverage?
A: I love to cook Asian, Middle Eastern, and Indian food. It’s my “thing”. I cook whatever is in season and right now it’s pea tendrils (the curly top part of the pea plant). They have a sweet earthy aroma and a crunchy octopus texture. I sauté them in olive oil, garlic and salt. Scramble them with duck eggs? Screaming!
Favorite afterwork bev would be Old English 800. I’m from the San Juaquine valley and that’s just how we roll.
Q: If you weren’t a farmer what would you be?
A: If I wasn’t a farmer I’d be dead.
Q: What is your favorite time of day up on the farm? What is your favorite season?
A: Summer mornings when the fog is covering the valley but the farm is just above it and the sun comes up all red over the mountains and there’s no one there but me and the chickens…that’s a a good part of the day.
Q: Who do you admire in the farming world?
A: Fernando and Panco who sweat and bleed with me every day,Wendell Berry, Gene Logsdon, Joel Salatin, Will Allen (google him, you’ll be amazed), Ali Farke Toure, Valton - my one legged seven fingered uncle in Montana who hayed and raised cattle till the day he died and who could have kicked my ass when he was in his 80′s.
Q:Describe your ideal day…
A: Ideal day is Sunday alone on Veeder setting gopher traps and observing nature to learn how to dance with her better.
Q: What moisturizer do you use?…just kidding!
A: I’m an Oil of Olay guy.