News

First Person: David Winsberg, East Palo Alto Farmer

While he specializes in peppers -- especially the Padrone -- he also raises chickens and grows fraises des bois, watercress and some rhubarb, all sought after by select Bay Area restaurants and farmers market goers.

The self-described "land steward of East Palo Alto," Winsberg preserves patches of farmland that were once part of the Weeks Poultry Community on which descendants of Maltese and Japanese farmers still live, along with that of some newcomers with more land than they know what to do with. He swaps the opportunity to farm in exchange for produce, or just the assurance that the land is still cared for. He can be spotted cruising around the neighborhood right behind IKEA in an electric golf cart tending his plots and neighbors.

Winsberg spends his time tinkering, innovating and cooking up new products, collaborations and markets with the zeal and ingenuity of a high-tech entrepreneur in the backyard of Silicon Valley. His newest offering is a line of hot sauces made in a commercial kitchen for which he bartered. Happy Quail Farms is a family operation with multiple generations rolling up their sleeves including at the Saturday morning farmers market in downtown Palo Alto.

Comments

Posted by paul, a resident of another community
on Oct 14, 2013 at 11:36 am

where is this??


Posted by Carolyn Williams, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 14, 2013 at 12:09 pm

Lisa, Thank you for this fantastic interview with David Winsberg. I think what is most impressive, besides the incredible peppers that David grows, is the fact that he is keeping agriculture alive in our community so that people can see that it is possible to grow and produce our foods close to home.


Posted by moi, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 14, 2013 at 12:14 pm

I feel so much better now, knowing that there's a real farm nearby! I miss living out in the country. . . .


Posted by Montse, a resident of Professorville
on Oct 14, 2013 at 3:28 pm

Best peppers you could ever have specially the padrones!


Posted by Karin Schlanger, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 14, 2013 at 10:40 pm

Great job Lisa. You really got to the heart of the matter. David is definitely passionate about what he does. It is a pleasure to get a great person to talk to. Thank you!


Posted by Social Butterfly, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 16, 2013 at 1:03 am

My grandfather grew veggies for his family of seven children in East Palo Alto. As a child I remembered helping pick the fresh corn, squash, cucumbers, lettuce, etc., but fondly remembered the smell you inhaled when putting your nose near the fresh somewhat sticky tomatoes...THEY were the BEST!!!! David, what about growing tomatoes??? Grandpa had several acres off Pulgas Avenue which he sold off because of ill health in the late 40's. Tract type houses were built there and his farm plot was reduced to only one acre. I am so glad that the growing is still being done in EPA. I don't think there are even many chickens left in the area, neither are there the beautiful flowers grown in the green houses............miss all that...


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 18, 2013 at 11:12 am

Hmmm is a registered user.

Social Butterfly - it's wonderful to read about your grandfather! There are indeed chickens in EPA. We have been lucky to have the East Palo Alto Historical and Agricultural Society, followed by Collective Roots.

Check out this Collective Roots presentation, if you're interested in EPA's agricultural history & what's currently happening: Web Link
Their HQ is on Woodland and they have a lot of chickens. Some of their members have chickens, too. The employees may be willing show you around there. They also have some large community gardens, the flagship being at EPA Charter School, adjacent to the baylands. In fact, if you visit it, it feels like being in the country, since it abuts the baylands.

Collective Roots have also installed garden beds in large apt. communities and some nonprofits. You can find videos online, maybe on YouTube, or on the Collective Roots site. There is also a Backyard Gardeners Network, for those who want to raise some food at home, or in a garden bed on site at CR HQ.

There's also a tiny ranch w/horses on Pulgas, near Bay. And speaking of Bay, if take Pulgas to Bay & turn right, head all the way down, you'll literally run into the new Cooley Landing, a baylands park. They're about to build there, and will be deciding on if they want to make a roof garden on it.
We'd have chickens if we didn't have dogs. While I grew up w/both, our dogs back then never bothered our free ranging hens, but our current dogs sure would!

I may be wrong, but I thought that CR's HQ, which is in an old house, may be one of the original chicken farms that we had 80 years ago.


Posted by Maman, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 18, 2013 at 12:02 pm

This article really makes me miss my father's half-acre lot in Cupertino, where I grew up. We had fresh fruit and veggies all year 'round, between his homemade composting and homemade greenhouses.


If you were a member and logged in you could track comments from this story.

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Scott’s Seafood Mountain View to close, reopen as new concept
By Elena Kadvany | 13 comments | 4,235 views

How Bad Policy Happens
By Douglas Moran | 21 comments | 1,429 views

The life of Zarf
By Sally Torbey | 10 comments | 1,066 views

Freshman Blues Don't Mean Wrong College
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 1 comment | 800 views

When Grandparents Visit
By Cheryl Bac | 4 comments | 779 views