Name: Marguerita Smith
Farm: Mud Creek Ranch
Location: Santa Paula, CA
What they grow: With an estimated 200 varieties of citrus, their selection includes tahitian and chandler pomelos, cocktail grapefruit, cherimoyas, rex union grapefruit, oro blanco grapefruit, kishu mandarins, palestine limes, monachello lemons, key limes, and many more. Other products throughout the year include apples, corn, squash, tomatoes, figs, pears, berries, stone fruit, and a wide selection of avocadoes (bacon, fuerte, pinkerton, zutano).
Where to buy: Farmers markets including Saturday in downtown Santa Barbara and Sunday in Ojai. Their produce has also been featured on the menus of such restaurants as Sama Sama, Bouchon, and Wine Cask.
In season now: In addition to the more common varieties of citrus, the farm enjoys growing ancestor fruit and exotic items: kumquats (including nagami), limequats, calamondins, yuzus, and more. The farm is also currently selling dried tangerines, oranges, lemons, and apricots (all free of added sugar or sulfites).
Their story: Raised on their 60-acre family orchard, Marguerita Smith has enjoyed working alongside her parents and siblings. Since 1985, the Smiths have worked hard to grow everything they eat, a self-sustaining venture into organic farming.
“It’s the best job anywhere. It’s like a play day in Adventureland,” said Smith. “It never feels like work to me. I love it.”
Certified organic since 1990, the family farm has experimented with a plethora of different exotic fruits, many unique to the California climate. Offering market goers a wide abundance of flavor and options, Mud Creek Ranch is dedicated to their craft, doing all the growing, picking, and selling as a family.
“I’ve always been working the markets,” said Smith. “I have so many customers who have known me since I was a kid. It’s a great positive atmosphere.”
Known for their sweet and juicy pomelos (an ancestor fruit to the grapefruit), the farm grows organic fruit based both on market demand and their own eagerness to try new varietals. Unlike many commercial growers, Mud Creek Ranch does not plant in rows but rather plants trees when there is an opening in the orchard, making for a very eclectic mix of fruit and flavors.
“There’s no way I can choose a favorite product, we have so many!” said Smith. “Growing up on a farm made me want to go to culinary school. I love to cook. I love everything we grow.”
Sharing her parents dream to grow food and work in the soil, Marguerita Smith intends to pursue a career in horticulture or viticulture, while currently working in catering. Grateful for her own backyard bounty, she hopes other locals will continue to shop and support local farmers.
“Farmers markets are so important, both for a strong and healthy local community,” said Smith.