Terra Amico Farms — meaning friend of the earth — in San Martin, CA is well known in the community for their incredible, juicy, multi-colored, certified organic heirloom tomatoes. But before the farm, Terra Amico was, and still is, a handmade furniture business that revolves around sustainability and reclaiming salvaged materials. The tomato growing started out as a hobby when owners Joe and Lisa Raineri moved into their ranch in San Martin 4 years ago.
"When we moved in, I decided I was going to plant some tomatoes," said Joe. "I ended up with 200 tomato plants, which was a lot! And I didn't have enough friends to give away all the tomatoes, so we decided to do an honor [system] cart."
You can visit Terra Amico’s farm stand Monday-Sunday 8am-6pm through the end of October.
"We stock it in the morning, roll it out to the street and bring it back in the evening," said Joe. "And the way it works is people can just drive up — it's not manned — they pick their tomatoes, they weigh them, and we have a little sign that describes how you go about it, but you pick your tomatoes your way and put money in the can."
Word spread fast of their amazing variety of tomatoes, and so grew the line outside their cart. Two hundred tomato plants turned to 2,000 and they started selling to restaurants like Orchard City Kitchen, The Lex House, Angela's Restaurant, and nearly 30 others.
"Part of the fun of what we do, there are well over 300 different varieties of tomatoes out there, we do anywhere from 40 to 60 different varieties each season," said Joe. "We offer things that you can't find anywhere else — they're all different colors and flavors, textures and sizes, and it becomes kind of fun."
Terra Amico Farm’s website has an extensive catalog of all of the different varietals that they grow on the farm. The catalog is as much for customers as it is for them to keep track of all the varietals.
"The seeds, they all kind of start off looking the same, so you do your best to keep track of what seeds you're planting in which trays," said Shannon Keener, Program Coordinator at Terra Amico Farms. "So you have a tray of 70 seeds and then when those start to grow — we start everything in our greenhouse here, and that greenhouse will be filled from floor to ceiling, window to window with tomato plants. And as they get bigger and bigger, then you have to transfer them to a three-inch pot, and then they go into the ground. And so with all of that transferring you want to be able to know what species that is."
They’re known for their organic mixed heirloom large tomatoes and grape & cherry tomatoes, but tomato season only lasts so long. Tomatoes are an end-of-summer to early fall fruit, late October to early November. So Terra Amico bottles and dehydrates a portion of their 2,000 crops for their own Bloody Mary Mixes and Bloody Mary Salt, as well as works with Watsonville-based Terroir in a Jar who makes jams, jellies, and syrups.
But Terra Amico does more than just make sustainable furniture and grow organic tomatoes, they put two and two together to host outdoor events on their farm like cooking demos and farm-to-table course meals by professional chefs — like a Farm To Table 7-Course Italian Dinner lead by Chef Tommy Palmer of Palmerinos. The meals feature seasonal, organic produce grown on the farm like, you guessed it, tomatoes, as well as zucchini, artichokes, basil, and more.
Joe's favorite way to eat and honor their tomatoes is to make bruschetta and serve it on some 'really good bread' like Manresa's Whole Wheat Loaf or Companion's Simple Sourdough. Shannon's favorite way is to make a Caprese salad with some fresh mozzarella, EVOO, balsamic, and fresh basil.
Seize the last days of tomato season while you still can, taste their Organic Mixed Heirloom Tomatoes and Organic Heirloom Mixed Cherry and Grape Tomatoes. And stock up on their wildly popular Bloody Mary Mixes, they’re next level.