The view from above the terraced farm illustrates something rarely seen in the area: a farm growing just as quickly as the plants inside it.
Love Apple Farms, which moved from Ben Lomond to Scotts Valley last year, grows more than 200 varieties of plants exclusively for chef David Kinch of world-renowned Los Gatos eatery Manresa.
“The farm partners with (Chef David Kinch of Manresa) for 52 weeks of the year,” owner Cynthia Sandberg said. “We have about 200 things growing for him. It’s really, really tough. Every crop we do wants a little bit different care.”
Sandberg said the average farm might grow 30 crops, but because Love Apple Farms provides for the fine-dining restaurant, it grows hundreds. In partnership with the chef, workers at the farm harvest the produce in all stages of its growth — from young sprouts to fully mature vegetables and fruits — to create unique flavors.
“Having his own farm, I can source things for (Kinch) that he won’t find at a farmer’s market — things that he won’t find anywhere else,” Sandberg said.
And the farm is still growing. Since its move from its original 3-acre plot in Ben Lomond to 22 acres in the hills above Scotts Valley, Love Apple Farm has expanded considerably.
New Knox Garden Boxes are taking shape along terraces, soon to be home to even more exotic vegetables. Already, the likes of French sorrel, red-veined dandelion greens and cardoon adorn the hillsides, at the request of Manresa.
Sandberg also hosts a host of classes, including beekeeping, cheese making, chicken raising and cooking, led by Kinch in an industrial kitchen classroom on the premises.
But the trademark of Love Apple Farms, is the colorful fruits often mistaken for vegetables: tomatoes.
“People are crazy about their tomatoes,” Sandberg said, walking among thousands of sprouting tomato plants.
Sandberg raises varieties with offbeat names like Amazon Chocolate and Bloody Butcher and tries to add a new variety every year.
“I make sure I have stuff that nobody else will carry,” she said.
Sandberg scours online tomato forums for new varieties and orders seeds each year.
This month, the farm is preparing for its biggest annual event, the Tomato Seedling sale. It will run March 26 through June 26, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends, at the Knox Garden Box showroom, 46 El Pueblo Road, in Scotts Valley. More than 100 varieties of heirloom and hybrid tomatoes will be on sale in small pots for $3.75 and large pots for $5.75.
“There’s a huge population of tomato freaks in this world,” Sandberg said.
The farm is organic and biodynamic. Sandberg and farm manager Daniel Maxfield create a sustainable “closed-loop system” by composting table and kitchen scraps from Manresa and plant debris from the farm to create fine soil that helps in the planting process. Animals on the farm make it a truly biodynamic setup.
Sandberg said Love Apple Farms has hosted a number of famous chefs and food writers, including the likes of Erik Ripert, Rick Bayless, Sean Brock from “Iron Chef” and Ludo Lefebvre, to show off the farm-to-table concept.
“We are the preeminent small farm and educational center, and we’re paired with one of the finest restaurants in the whole world,” Sandberg said.
“We’ve bridged that gap between the chef and the farmer,” farm manager Daniel Maxfield added.
For more information: www.loveapplefarms.com