There’s a dance that’s familiar to many of us, the shifting balance between beauty and function. Pure utility may be most efficient, but sometimes the beautiful can be just as nourishing, an essential element that feeds the eye and heart. Jamie Collins, of Serendipity Farms, felt the pull not only to create beauty but for it to mean something, too. To do the good, hard work of nourishing her community, not just to beautify ornamental gardens, or the interiors of finely designed houses, but to bring something to the table, as it were. "I always loved plants, although growing up in southern California, you don't think of farming as a profession. But I figured if I were going to grow plants, there should be more of a purpose than to make someone's yard look pretty; it should do both, feed and be beautiful."
Serendipity Farms was founded in the shifting interplay between these forces, and has spread roots out into the soil of 4 different growing locations around the Carmel Valley, each with a microclimate that favors certain crops; avocados, lemons, and protea flowers in Aromas, blueberries in Watsonville, tomatoes and warm season crops in Carmel Valley, and cool leafy greens on the coast of Carmel. It’s a lot to juggle. "The hardest part is managing all the balls in the air - to be a farmer means not only do you need to know how to care for plants well, but you need to be a good marketer and sales person, organized with business, know about irrigation and repairing machinery and how to problem solve. Although occasionally stressful, it is satisfying to figure out how to fix a problem or sell bumper crop of fava beans. Each day is always different,” Jamie explains. The heavy lifting involved is also taxing, but Jamie does not imagine a future in which she will ever stop farming. Lucky for us! Jamie’s stand is a favorite stop at many a local market. The blueberries, plump and dusky blue as fog over the dark sea, are a perfect distillation of climate, variety, and the attentive care that is lavished on them. Sometimes they’re the only thing on offer at her little stand, but they are complete in and of themselves, full of flavor and vibrant life that hums in a way nothing that has been in a plastic clamshell ever can. The difference is real and noticeable.
Sometimes they’re the only thing on offer at her little stand, but they are complete in and of themselves, full of flavor and vibrant life that hums in a way nothing that has been in a plastic clamshell ever can. The difference is real and noticeable.
I asked Jamie to name her favorite crop, but it may be like asking a parent which is their favorite child. "I grow over 50 varieties of fruits, vegetables, berries, herbs, and flowers. I have lots of favorite crops, basically all of them when they are in their prime of the first harvest when they are most tender in the case of vegetables. Our blueberries are pretty fantastic and definitely one of the top 3. I love tomato season and will not buy a tomato out of season, so they are pretty exciting when they are ready. I love our English shelling peas. Too many to mention - avocados are awesome. I love it all.” Right now, Serendipity is harvesting peas, blueberries, lettuces, fava beans, herbs, avocados, beets, carrots, and lots of bunched greens. You can find them at the Downtown, Live Oak, and Westside markets.
Farmer’s Markets are the venue of choice for Serendipity Farms to sell their produce. At the markets, Jamie and her team enjoy meeting the people who eat their food, bringing the cycle full circle. It also allows them to keep a larger portion of the profits, as opposed to selling to wholesale distributors. And speaking of full circles, Jamie has more to say on the subject. "We have a closed loop system, “ she explains. "Everything that comes back from the market gets turned into something or at the very least given to animals. I take pride in not wasting food and having a market for everything we sell. It is my mission in life to promote farmers and educate the public about why supporting small, local farms is important.” To that end, Jamie has started a Facebook group called Serendipity's Virtual Farm Stand, to market larger quantities of produce direct to the people with wholesale prices for buying in bulk. The site features not only her own produce but also that of other local producers who are left with an excess of particular crops. "Getting the good food to the people is my mission!” Jamie is beaming, but she so often does. It’s meeting farmers like her, seeing (and tasting!) the very fruits of their labor, that make our local Farmer’s Markets such a worthy way to spend a Saturday morning or a Wednesday afternoon.
In the spirit of the balancing act that inspires Serendipity Farms, we asked Jamie for a recipe that highlights some of her favorite produce. This luscious salad was what she suggested. It’s full of things that she herself grows; blueberries, greens, beets, avocados, and lemons. What she hasn’t grown, she’s put her own touch on, too, sprouting the nuts she later candies in the dehydrator, and sourcing wild-caught smoked salmon from the cool, salty sea that washes the shores of Monterey Bay. Makes 1 large serving or 2 smaller portions.
Make the nuts first, so you can use the excess marinade in the dressing. Once made, the dressing can be stored in the refrigerator for a week.
Dehydrate the nuts at 115°F for 12 hours.
Store any excess in the refrigerator.
It’s part of our mission here at Mountain Feed to help you make delicious, sustainable, homemade food more often. Stop by and say hello on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest. Or, as always, you can do it the old fashioned way and come by the store to speak with one of our in-house experts.