Nick and Jane Atallah, along with 4 full-time workers.
10 acres; 11 greenhouses sit on 4 acres in Madison, about 80 miles from the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.
Nick studied agriculture and irrigation at UC Davis and taught irrigation, drainage, and water resources at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon. Later, he worked with the USDA on international agriculture projects. When Nick retired in 1986, he started Madison Growers with his wife, Jane. A year later, he purchased a 20-acre farm and built 10 greenhouses that allow him to have an extended growing season for most of his crops.
Nick says that the only drawback to using greenhouses is that they require constant attention. He must alter the humidity, temperature, and other controls on a daily basis. The greenhouses are made out of plastic which must be replaced every 4 years.
All plants are grown from seed in potting mix that Nick makes himself. These plants are then transplanted into five-pund plastic bags filled with a different potting mix. Nick also applies his own inorganic fertilizer recipe with N, P, K, and micro-elements called “Nick’s Mix.”
Drip irrigation with nutrient solution. Nick carefully monitors how much water drips onto the plants in order to conserve water and eliminate run-off.
Crops are hand weeded. Nick uses Round-up (an herbicide) on weeds that are not near his crops.
They use beneficial insects to manage pests. They do not spray any pesticides—organic or conventional—on their crops.
Madison Growers receives weekly shipments of beneficial insects from Holland, which are released into their sealed plastic greenhouses to manage pest problems.
Dirty Girl Produce is famous for their dry-farmed Early Girl tomatoes. This waterless method of growing sometimes yields only one-third as many tomatoes, but the resulting fruits are dense with flavor.
CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture) is dedicated to cultivating a sustainable food system through the operation of the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and its educational programs. Learn More »