As a food-centric business, farm visits always reinvigorate the KitchenTown (KT) team. It not only gives us a glimpse at developing trends within the agriculture sector, but it also provides us a deep appreciation for the hard-working farm community as a whole. As fans of the Modern Acre podcast, we were thrilled at the opportunity to visit Nuss Farms in Lodi, California where the fifth generation farming family is transitioning their 1000 acre farm to regenerative farming practices. Along with their forward thinking farming principles, the family is also working with Row 7 Seeds to experiment with culinary driven crops. With collaboration and partnerships at our core, our day getting our hands dirty at the farm was an immersive educational experience we thoroughly enjoyed.
Lodi, California sits at the northern end of the San Joaquin Valley and is home to thousands of acres of farmland that feeds the country. Nuss farms grows a wide range of specialty crops including garlic, tomatoes, cucumber, corn, peppers, and wheat that they distribute nationwide. Through the years, the Nuss family moved from primarily farming asparagus, to instituting a rotating selection of crops and is now moving into regenerative agriculture practices.
Nuss Farms is truly a family run business with father and son duo David and Derek overseeing day to day farm operations and David’s other two sons Tyler and Tim overseeing marketing/strategy and finance/business development respectively. Together, the family made the decision to transition to regenerative through a number of resources. Tyler explains the journey, “Tim and I started a podcast in 2018 called The Modern Acre, which focused on innovation in food and agriculture. As we started interviewing entrepreneurs, farmers, and innovators in the space, we began learning about the idea of regenerative agriculture and became very quickly hooked on the idea. We jumped into the space, including applying for and receiving a farmer-scholarship with Kiss the Ground. As part of the scholarship program, Kiss the Ground offers free training resources for farmers. When we got the opportunity to attend a Soil Health Academy, led by Gabe Brown and Ray Archuleta, we asked our dad if he would be interested in taking the seat, given that he is heading up the farming operation. Attending Soil Health Academy was a huge turning point for us as our dad really bought into the principles of regenerative agriculture. The focus on our farm, as we work through our transition, is to be a leader in scaling regenerative agriculture, especially for vegetables.”
Regenerative farming is a practice we are excited about because of its forward thinking principles. Put simply, regenerative agriculture is a system of farming that seeks to regenerate and enhance its ecosystem through soil health, water management, and livestock integration. Rather than depleting or destroying the land, or just sustaining it, regenerative aims to renew it.
According to Tyler Nuss, “Regenerative agriculture is important because it focuses on improving soil health which leads to increased nutrient density of crops, improved soil organic matter and water retention, and sequestering carbon from the atmosphere.” It’s a farming system that we can definitely get behind.
Row 7 Seeds
Dan Barber is famously known as the acclaimed chef from Blue Hill, pioneer of the farm to table movement, and a subject in Netflix’s Season 1 of “Chef’s Table.” Constantly iterating and evolving, Barber partnered with plant breeder and Cornell professor Michael Mazourek to, at first, grow a better tasting butternut squash. From there, the partnership flourished and Row 7 was created to operate under the ethos of “flavor can succeed where commodification has failed,” according to their website.
Row 7 breeds cultivars that are specifically grown to optimize flavor and are focused on culinary use. Their seed selection includes Midnight Roma tomatoes which, when exposed to sun, have a purple skin and produce a reddish purple paste. This outcome feels like the makings of a wildly colored Bloody Mary mix. Also available is the Habanada Pepper which retains all of the flavors of the Habañero Pepper without the heat and the 898 Squash which is a single serving butternut squash with major recipe potential. Check out Row 7’s store for a complete offering of everything mentioned above as well as things like beets without the earthy flavor and zero-waste Tetra Squash.
Visits to places like Nuss Farms and learning about the implementation of growing Row 7 Seeds contextualizes change makers in the agricultural and culinary spaces. When choosing which crops to plant, the Nuss family was practical, “We gravitated towards crops that we have grown before, things like squash, peppers, and tomatoes. Of course, there is a substantial learning curve in growing these unique varieties. There are challenges to grow effectively at scale, which we are working through.”
KT’s experience on the farm was nothing short of inspiring, thought-provoking, and helpful when we think about the food development process. As we work with companies of all sizes, it’s important to have a breadth of knowledge about all things food from high concept laboratory developments right down to the soil where food is grown. A big thanks to Nuss Farms for a truly special experience.
Check out our own Isha and Sarah The Modern Acre Podcast.