Bruins Farms grows tomatoes in four greenhouses in Winters. The greenhouses allow Paul, Eva, and Bart Bruins to start bringing tomatoes to the market in March.
Inside, the greenhouses are humid and warm. That's Paul, who is the engineer of the operation, standing among the rows of young tomato plants. The plants are pruned to have a single main stem and are trained onto red strings suspended from the rafters to the base of the plant.
Bart Bruins, the farmer, shows how the tomato plants get their start. Two seedlings are planted in a single pot: one is a disease-resistant variety that will become the rootstock; the other, a variety chosen for its fruit, will become the top of the plant.
The two plants are grafted together while they are young and the top of the rootstock is cut off so that the plant will have its disease resistance, but will yield only the desired variety of fruit. The graft union can be seen here on a plant that has rooted in the greenhouse.
Another way Bruins Farms prevents disease is by planting the tomatoes in the soil and in bags in alternating years. The soil is enriched with compost made from San Francisco's green waste at Jepson Prairie Organics.
Bruins Farm's biggest pest is the whitefly. Yellow sticky tape captures some of them.
Bruins Farms also uses beneficial insects to control the whitefly. Parasitic wasps are imported from Holland on this white card. The wasps parasitize the whitefly larvae, preventing them from hatching. You can see black and white whitefly larvae on this leaf; the black ones have been parasitized.
Paul is working on a way to reduce their consumption of fossil fuels by heating the greenhouses with a waste product: stumps of walnut trees removed from local orchards. He is building this furnace, where the burning stumps will heat water running in metal pipes at the top of the furnace. The water will then provide three days' worth of warmth for the greenhouses.
Bruins Farm grows hybrid tomatoes as well as a variety of heirlooms like these.
Eva Bruins made gazpacho for the group using her own tomatoes.
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 »