Molly & Rick Gean
Most supermarket strawberries are bred not for flavor but to travel long distances and sit on grocery shelves. But there’s another big reason: Since thin-skinned strawberries readily absorb pesticides and chemicals, Harry’s Berries is dedicated to growing them organically. Owner Molly Gean and her family, including her husband, three children, grandchildren, and numerous nieces and nephews, are carrying on the tradition of Gean’s father, Harry Iwamoto, who planted the first seeds in Oxnard, California, in 1966 after emigrating from Japan.
Fifty years later, the 57-acre farm is bordered by wildflowers, which provide habitat for the beneficial insects used to combat pests; nitrogen-rich cover crops, like cowpeas, help feed the soil. The family also keeps the fields healthy by diversifying what they grow, planting haricots verts and yellow romano beans as well as tomatoes. The Geans sell mostly at local farmers’ markets, where they’ve gotten close to their customers and loyal area chefs.
“We’ve had a whole generation of kids grow up on our food,” says Gean, who adds that while more and more small farms around the country are being folded into big ones, this tribe is determined to stay solo: “Farming is not just an occupation,” she says. “It’s our family heritage.”