Early in the morning while many VC residents were still taking in their morning coffee, TOF had the opportunity to join 4th generation Ventura County Farmer, Craig Underwood on a tour of his family farm. As the sun peaked over the horizon, we drove along the dirt roads with Craig. “We’ve got peppers and tomatoes… there’s raspberries, we’ve got green beans, beats, summer squash, cucumbers,” Craig pointed out.
Everything Underwood Family Farms produces is grown on 200 acres up in Moorpark that supplies 15 farmers markets. In addition, Underwood Family Farms has two roadside markets, one in Somis and the other in Moorpark.
“We go back to the late 1800’s. My dad’s side of the family started farming in Camarillo in 1867. My mom’s family in the late 1800’s in Saticoy.”
Once Craig started farming, he knew he loved the business – through good times and bad times. There were days he worried about losing the farm because of a bank calling in a loan. “There were months and months of sleepless nights, but we got through that and we’ve had a lot of good times too,” he recalls.
Educating the local youth and community on the value of farming is a true passion for Craig. His farm serves as a 200 acre classroom. Over the course of the year, Underwood’s Family Farm will host close to 50,000 children. “It’s essential that kids see how food is grown and where it comes from.”
“One girl asked me ‘when I’m in the produce department, how do I know what I’m choosing is safe to eat or has too many pesticides,” Craig recalled, “You can be assured that what you get in the produce department is safe to eat. Where the poison lies is in other parts of the super market where you look down the aisles and see all the junk food.”
Throughout his farming life, land use in the county has been uppermost in Craig’s mind. “When I first arrived in the county, I went to meetings with my dad and that was in 1968 and everybody told me that within 10 years the county was going to look like Orange County.” Craig hoped that wasn’t true – That maybe Ventura County doesn’t have to be a holding place for development down the line.
Ventura County farms & ranches contribute $3.5 billion to our county’s economy and provide 43,000 jobs. And 1 in 10 county residents relies to some degree on income derived from farming.
“This county produces well beyond its total acreage because we have the best place to farm of almost anywhere in the world,” Craig said with a smile. “But that makes it expensive land.”
Currently in America we are losing more than one acre of farmland each minute. When asked why people should treasure our farms, Craig simply replied “I love the farm life. I love our farm and I would hope through multiple efforts that we can get more people to feel the same way about it that I do.”