alt farmer

Modern Farmer Magazine

Farmers in the San Joaquin Valley are embracing a nationwide trend: America's newfound love affair with food culture. 

You see it everyday on television, at the farmers market, and on thousands of “foodie” blogs online. There are heirloom tomatoes at the local store, artisanal cheeses, and grass-fed beef, all with a focus on quality over quantity.

And in the process, something interesting is happening - farming is actually becoming cool.

Rebecca Plevin / Valley Public Radio

This week on Valley Edition we take a look at what we are calling "Alt. Farmers."

In a region where big agriculture is big business, a new generation of farmers is challenging our notion of what life on the farm is all about. These socially conscious, technology savvy boutique growers and ranchers are going beyond organic to embrace the latest trends in food and popular culture.

Ezra Romero / Valley Public Radio

It’s not just farmers who are taking part in this new trend that is reshaping agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley. It’s also consumers. From pop-up “farm to fork” meals to acclaimed local chefs perusing the goods at a rapidly increasing number of local farmers markets, our relationships, our food and those who grow it are changing. And even in an area where fast food and chain restaurants are king, eating local is proving to be more than just a trend for many Valley residents. 


Chris Shakelford is on a quest for perfect produce.

Rebecca Plevin / Valley Public Radio

A new generation of farmers is challenging our idea of what it means to work in agriculture in the Central Valley. Two special Valley Edition reports examine who these modern farmers are, and how they're connecting with the burgeoning, nationwide interest in boutique culture.

In this audio postcard, 30-year-old Allen Mesick introduces us to Eureka Mohair Farm in Tollhouse, where he and his partner Randy Shumaker raise Angora goats for mohair.

Rebecca Plevin / Valley Public Radio

Amber Balakian grew up on a farm in Reedley. Her family grows 80 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, plus a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.

But it took her attending Harvard University’s Extension School to realize that her family’s business was pretty cool. She returned to the 20-acre farm after she earned her master’s degree in 2009.

“My main goal coming back and working here was to make things more efficient,” Balakian says. “I just didn’t know how. One of the main things – we were dumping a ton of fruit, ton of vegetables.”