Friday, August 15, 2014

Farm Feature: Naylor Organics

by Sarah Janes Ugoretz

Mike and Nori Naylor, Naylor Organics,San Joaquin Valley California.
“Insanely good.” According to Mike Naylor, these two words pretty much sum up the Goldline peaches you’ll find in your box this week. With a flavor similar to that of one of the earliest peach varieties—the Nectar peach—Goldline peaches have a sweet skin and a distinct golden suture running down the body. Mike, along with his wife Nori, run Naylor Organics, an organic fruit operation located in the San Joaquin Valley of California. Today, Naylor Organics is the only place you’ll find Goldline peaches in production. Originally grown by Mike’s grandfather, the arrival of each harvest conjures fond memories of Mike’s childhood. “This is my all-time favorite variety,” he states cheerfully, going on to mention that if he and Nori parcel down their operation once they near retirement age, the Goldlines would be the only peaches they would continue to grow. But that’s still a ways off yet, Mike assures me.

Goldline peaches from Naylor Organics
This year’s harvest of these Goldline peaches does, however, mark the close of another growing season for the Naylors. “Three months of insanity is now over,” Mike says with a sigh of relief. The life of a farmer is far from easy, but with the persistent drought conditions in California, everyday challenges become magnified. For Mike, a severely diminishing water supply translates to him waking up every three hours to check on and move irrigation. Fortunately for the Naylors, their well made it through this season, but Mike suspects they’ll have to have another one drilled soon. “$50,000 to have a new well drilled,” Mike adds. “And there go the profits.”

Considering the implications of shouldering the high cost of such investments, the issues Mike touches on in his most recent blog post become ever more pertinent. In “Why low cost organic produce is bad for small farmers” (read it at, Mike discusses the additional pressures that small-scale organic farmers face once the “big guy” operations come to the fore. Their ability to absorb high investment costs while also operating at economies of scale allows large-scale growers to produce at high volume. The end result is an excess of organic produce on the market, which can ultimately lower the prices that other farmers receive for growing similar goods. While Mike recognizes that the availability of low-cost organics plays an important role in increasing low-income communities’ access to fresh and healthy foods, he points out the inherent conundrum he—and other small farmers like him—is facing: farms like Naylor Organics “cannot continue unless the sale price exceeds the cost of putting [the product] in the box.” It is at this point that you might ask yourself how your organic food was produced, and if you’re able to afford it, opt for supporting the smaller guys, like Mike and Nori. (For an interesting discussion that touches on this topic, check out Julie Guthman’s book Agrarian Dreams: The paradox of organic farming in California.)

Fortunately for Mike and Nori, they have been able to shield themselves from these negative impacts thanks to Naylor Organics’ hard-won and well-deserved reputation for producing high quality fruit. A few years ago, they also began looking for ways to diversify their farm income, aware that they wouldn’t be able to farm full-time forever. This season marked the fourth year that they’ve offered a Farm Stay option for folks interested in visiting and learning about what goes into running a successful small-scale organic fruit business. Guests come, tour the farm and ask questions. If they don’t ask questions, Mike assures me that he is always more than happy to pipe in with any number of stories he’s collected over the years. After spending the night on the farm, they’re greeted by a “hardy farm breakfast” and additional opportunities for learning and exploring. Thus far, the Naylors have had guests from as far away as India, China, and South Korea, and from as close as 30 miles down the road. Reflecting on the impact the Farm Stay has had on both his business as well as his personal life, Mike says: “[This program] forces me to remember what all we do, and how much fun we really have.”

Although he and Nori will take off for a restful trip to the mountains once the end-of-the-season bustle calms down a bit, Mike extended a warm invitation to all of Harmony Valley Farm’s fruit share members, should anyone find themselves in his neck of the woods. In the meantime, bite into those scrumptious Goldline peaches and enjoy them to the utmost! They truly are something special.

Peach, Almond & Cardamom Clafoutis
Recipe borrowed from Clotilde Dusoulier’s book, The French Market Cookbook.

Clafoutis is a baked French dessert traditionally made with black cherries. This version of the traditional dish is based on the traditional concept, but Clotilde puts her own spin on it. This is a simple, versatile dish to make for dessert or even brunch.

Serves 8
⅔ cup almond flour*
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
½ tsp ground cardamom
3 eggs
¾ cup milk (may substitute almond milk)
2¼ pounds fresh peaches
Crème Fraiche or Greek Yogurt (optional)

1. In a medium bowl, combine the almond flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, cornstarch and ground cardamom. Break the eggs into the bowl and whisk until combined. Pour in the milk in a thin stream, whisking all the while to incorporate.

2. Preheat the oven to 350°.

3. Pit the peaches, cut them into slices without peeling and arrange on the bottom of a greased 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish. (Alternatively, use individual baking dishes)

4. Pour the batter evenly over the peaches. Bake until set and golden, 30 to 40 minutes (20-30 minutes for individual dishes).

5. Serve slightly warm, at room temperature, or cold, with an optional dollop of crème fraiche or Greek yogurt. The leftovers also do well at breakfast.

*Note:  Almond flour can be made by grinding whole almonds in a food processor or blender until you form a fine meal.

Bonus Recipe: Our Vegetable CSA box this week contained Watermelon and our Fruit CSA box contained Grapefruit. We'd like to share our recipe that we shared in our CSA member newsletter

Watermelon & Grapefruit Agua Fresca
Recipe featured in Bon Appetit magazine, June 2012.

Serves 2-3
4 cups chopped seedless watermelon
1 cup fresh grapefruit juice
2 Tbsp fresh mint, chopped (optional)
Ice, for serving

1. Puree watermelon and mint (if using) in a blender until smooth. Pour into a large bowl and let stand for 10 minutes. Skim the foam from the surface and discard. Set a fine-mesh sieve over a large pitcher; line the sieve with cheesecloth. Strain the puree into the pitcher. You should have 2-3 cups of juice.

2. Stir in grapefruit juice.

3. Pour the agua fresca into two tall glasses with ice. Serve immediately.

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