By Elena Kadvany
Los Altos Hills farm, embracing new models during COVID-19, starts offering collaborative CSA boxesUploaded: Aug 4, 2020
Luna Vez Farm in Los Altos Hills has since 2018 exclusively grown produce for Maum, the high-end Korean restaurant in downtown Palo Alto.
But with the restaurant's pandemic-forced shift to a retail operation, the farm is pivoting itself, teaming up with other local farms to offer community supported agriculture (CSA) boxes to the community.
Tarun Marya, owner of Luna Vez Farm in Los Altos Hills, pulls a Korean radish from a vegetable bed in 2018. Photo by Veronica Weber.
Luna Vez owner Tarun Marya and partner Sofia Pablo-Hoshino sought out lesser known farms run by people of color to collaborate with, at this point Oya Organics in Hollister (which is owned by a Palo Alto resident), Montebello Farm in Hollister and Kashiwase Farm in Winton.
The boxes ($50 each) feature a rotating selection of seasonal, organic fruits and vegetables harvested the same day they're delivered, plus chicken and duck eggs, flowers, raw local honey, fresh bread and other items from each of the farms. In recent weeks the boxes have included heirloom tomatoes, Korean peppers, perilla, sweet corn, strawberries, elephant heart plums, yellow wax beans and summer squash.
The CSA boxes are currently only available to Los Altos and Los Altos Hills residents (they're doing the delivery themselves), but they hope to expand into other local cities. They also hope to partner with more local farms.
A recent Luna Vez Farm collaborative CSA box. Photo courtesy Tarun Marya.
Their ultimate ambition, however, is to create a "food hub" for the Peninsula: a community space where local farmers could sell their produce, people could take cooking classes and dine at an on-site restaurant or cafe.
Marya developed the idea for a food hub during an intensive farmers entrepreneurship program he attended before COVID-19 at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in New York, a nonprofit partner of the well-known Blue Hill at Stone Barns restaurant. He put the idea on the back-burner — and then the coronavirus hit, upending business models for farms across the country.
Marya said he realized, "maybe this is the time to switch the model of the farm and not just farm for one restaurant but to find a way to gather food from other folks that don't have the access."
"This is a time where the farmers are lost in the old way of distribution and so are folks in our community … all the processes have completely changed," he added. "That is where these smaller, local farms have this opportunity now to reach those clients."
Numerous pepper varieties including shishito, habanero, black Hungarian, yatsufusa and cabai burong growing at Luna Vez Farm in Los Altos Hills in 2018. Photo by Veronica Weber.
Before starting Luna Vez Farm in the large, sloping backyards of his mother and her neighbor's homes in Los Altos Hills, Marya was the pastry chef at All Spice in San Mateo, worked on organic farms and grew vegetable and grain seeds for food production. Pablo-Hoshino has worked at Hidden Villa in Los Altos Hills for seven years and currently manages the educational farm's residential internship program.
People interested in purchasing the CSA boxes can email [email protected] The farmers hope people will subscribe for a full, three-month season.