Yerena Farms is 85 miles south of Mission Pie in Royal Oaks, just North of Watsonville. Yerena Farms is a reliable shopper’s favorite at several San Francisco farmers markets (Heart of the City, Alemany, Ferry Plaza, and our own Mission Mercado) and has a serious following of chefs, bakers, and jam-makers. We buy 1/3 of our strawberries and nearly all of our caneberries (blackberries, tayberries, raspberries) from Yerena, as well as shelling beans, pole beans, and summer squash. We enjoy being vendors together at the Mission Community Market, where we pick up our weekly produce order from Apolinar “Poli” Yerena or his wife, Sylvia.
Poli began working in the fields alongside his father in 1967. The elder Yerena worked as a field laborer in the Bracero program, and during the Vietnam war, fieldwork opportunities expanded, and Poli joined him. In response to United Farmworker organizing, Driscoll, one of California’s largest strawberry producers, created new opportunities for workers and established a sharecropping program. In 1974 Yerena Farms was established, sharecropping for Driscoll. Despite growing to 60 acres of production, they couldn’t succeed financially contracting to a large distributor. In 1982, they went independent, still farming conventionally. In response to market demand, they converted 5 trial acres to organic production. The organic fruit sold so well they eventually decided to transition the entire farm to organic. Presently, 10 acres are certified organic with the remaining 12 in transition.
Our friends at the Mission Community Market published this great piece on the Poli and Sylvia Yerena