GENERATION FARMING

An hour from Silicon Valley, the small town of Hollister feels a world away. Marsha and Modesto, farmers and co-owners of Oya Organics, live and work in Hollister, where they raise their young family and build their small business. Oya Organics is an 18-acre organic vegetable farm on Las Viboras Road that produces healthy food and creates employment opportunities in a town that desperately needs them.

Website: link to photo essay | Commissioned by: Kitchen Table Advisors | Publisher: The New York Times | Mediums: stills and text

Crisoforo Reyes emigrated from Oaxaca, Mexico to the U.S., where he was given the opportunity to work alongside his nephew Modesto, the co-owner of Oya Organics. Here he proudly displays a vine of fava beans that are ripe for harvest.

Crisoforo settles into his work during an early spring morning in Hollister, California. Located about an hour south of the world’s technology mecca, Silicon Valley, Hollister is a sleepy, slow-moving town whose local economy and labor force is powered primarily by agriculture.

Saori, the three-year-old daughter of Oya owners Marsha and Modesto, races up the stairs of her two-story house. Although Hollister is considered to be a part of San Francisco’s greater Bay Area, the economic context is far different from how most perceive the region. For example, the median home value in Hollister is $471,700, compared to $712,000 in the Bay Area. 

Marsha, Saori’s mother, takes a break from her administrative duties and house work to chase her daughter around the house. The mother-daughter dynamic they share is beautifully unique. Marsha’s stoic exterior is counterbalanced by Saori’s outspokenness and relentless pace. 

Marsha, the owner of Oya Organics, takes an order over the phone right after preparing breakfast for her daughter, Saori. With a small business to run, a messy home, and a young child to care for, you'd assume Marsha would be in a constant struggle to maintain sanity. Yet her calm nature keeps her feet planted and her head clear. 

After a quick stop at the irrigation store, Marsha picks up lunch for her and her fellow Oya farmers, while Saori gazes longingly into the store’s baked goods case. 

Back at the farm for lunch, Saori makes a mad dash towards her uncle Crisoforo's room which doubles as a break room for the farmers. His room is host to empty beer cans, farming tools, a mattress and a stuffed tiger that Saori used as her very own horse.

The farm’s de facto elder and primary tractor operator Alfredo, smiles brightly as he prepares for hours of driving in the field. 

Marsha waters her plants in the greenhouse as the afternoon begins to settle over the farm.

Saori watches her mother harvest crops out of the window of a pickup truck. It’s evident that even as a youngster, she has cultivated a deep sense of admiration for her mother. 

After over an hour of harvesting Oya’s fava bean field, Marsha loads up her truck and drives it back to the staging area where the produce is cleaned and boxed again.  

Freshly picked and washed radishes glisten in the soft late-afternoon light. Next, they will be boxed and loaded in Oya’s truck to head to their final destination -- the Berkeley Farmer’s Market.   

During her day on the farm, Saori runs in the fields, explores the open space and hides in the crevices in between farm equipment. She lives a childhood unlike many other children of her generation. One of unthreatened outdoor exploration and playful curiosity.

As  the sun lowers and the land begins to settle, the beauty of the farm becomes more apparent while basking in its inherit  stillness.

Marsha and Crisoforo harvest kale in a race against fleeting daylight while Alfredo tractors an adjacent field. 

Read my interview on the project and slideshow on the New York Times

©2020 Brenton Gieser