Photo by Julia Hart
Marisol Alvarez Bos works alongside her father, Hilario Alvarez, at Alvarez Organic Farm south of Sunnyside. He has been farming row crops for fresh markets for the past 26 years on his 90-acre farm with the help of his eight children and their families. His son, Eddy, is farm manager.
As of Tuesday, October 27, 2015
Just off Murray Road, near Sunnyside’s landmark Peanut Hill, is a thriving, family-owned operation, which has been quietly producing USDA certified organic food for the past 20 years.
Among the traditional varieties of potatoes, squash and tomatoes, the Alvarez Organic Farm may be the only local source for fresh field grown peanuts.
The farm, owned by Hilario Alvarez, has been growing the legume for more than 20 years on a two-acre plot near the family farm’s main buildings. The rest of the farm’s 90 acres is committed to producing many varieties of squash, potatoes, tomatoes and peppers.
The only thing the farm doesn’t grow is fruit, said family spokesperson Marisol Alvarez Bos.
She said most people don’t think peanuts will grow in the Yakima Valley.
But, she said, her father has been growing peanuts on the Alvarez farm for more than 20 years.
Bos said her farther, who is originally from the Colima region of Mexico, has always grown produce on his farm in an organic method.
Today, in addition to the peanuts, the family grows more than 200 varieties of peppers. What doesn’t sell at farmers markets is sold in the form of dried chili wreaths during the winter months, said Bos, who is also in charge of shipping. The farm’s produce is sold to markets and a number of restaurants primarily in the Seattle area.
In fact, the urban areas are the family’s biggest outlet for its crops. Throughout the growing season, the family can be seen at a total of 18 farmers markets, including the famous Pike’s Street Market.
Bos said the farm also sells its produce at farmers markets in Cle Elum and in Pasco.
As for the peanuts, Bos says the protein-rich legume, while a familiar crop in Oklahoma and Texas, seems to love the sandy soil on her father’s farm.
“We start the plants in our greenhouses before transplanting the seedlings in the field, after all danger of frost is past,” she explained.
The peanuts are typically harvested near the end of September and through October after the weather turns cooler.
Once harvested, the peanuts, which grow underground like potatoes, are dried, roasted and bagged for sale at the farm’s various fresh markets.
“Our Seattle customers, especially those with southern roots, love our peanuts,” she said.
While Alvarez Organic Farm has a loyal bank of customers in the Yakima Valley, its biggest market is in the Seattle area.
“They love the fact that all of our crops are certified as USDA organically grown,” Bos added.
“Here it seems like most people think buying produce that hasn’t been sprayed with herbicides or pesticides are too expensive,” she explained. “But I think our crops are competitive on the market.”
Bos said the family hopes to eventually expand into the Yakima Farmers Market. But for now the 18 markets where their produce is available keeps the family and its more than 30 seasonal workers pretty busy.