How the Harvest Box Gets Made

Every food item that we consume takes a journey to get to our plates. For foods at the supermarket, that journey could include chemical-laden fields and thousands of miles of road, train tracks, or shipping lanes. But for the ingredients found in the Harvest Box, that journey is a lot shorter, simpler, and healthier.

Follow the journey of your Harvest Box below, meet the wonderful people who help it along the way, and click here to subscribe if you don’t already enjoy the freshest flavors of our bioregion.

Griffin Cassara

Most Harvest Box ingredients start their journey in the greenhouse at our San Juan Capistrano farm, where Greenhouse Coordinator Griffin Cassara prepares the seed trays, plants seeds, cares for seedlings, moves them outdoors for hardening off, and finally sends them out to be planted in our fields.

“We grow everything from seed, and I really like working with baby plants,” says Griffin. “Seeds are magical, and to be able to work with the seeds and see them grow is really special. The better they do at this stage, the better they do in the fields, so I love being able to give them a good start.”

Damien Aguirre

Once the future Harvest Box ingredients have been planted in irrigated rows out in the fields, they’re mostly left to do what they do so well: grow! We check on them daily to ensure that they’re happy and healthy, and once they’ve reached their peak of nutrition and flavor, that’s when Damien Aguirre leads the harvest.

“My job is to go over the list of all the vegetables that we need each day, harvest them, and then bring them to the barn where they can be put into the Harvest Box,” Damien says, translated from Spanish. “My favorite part of my work is collecting the vegetables, knowing that the food that we harvest out here in the fields goes on to feed all these people in the community.”

Gerardo Juarez

As you’ve probably guessed, running a 28-acre regenerative farm that provides food for thousands of local families isn’t easy. It requires a lot of planning, coordination, and dedicated people to make sure that this community stays fed with the healthiest possible ingredients. That’s why we are so grateful for our incredible Farm Team, who come from near and far, each bringing their own unique set of skills and experiences to help us do our best on the farm.

“I was a kid when I started working as a farmer in Mexico, and that’s how I learned my skills in the field,” says Gerardo Juarez, translated from Spanish. “I’ve always loved working on the land, growing fruits and vegetables from the earth. I feel like I’m at home on the farm, and working here at The Ecology Center is very special. Everything that we grow and harvest goes straight to the tables of people in the community—there is no supermarket or anything between us.”

Isela Chavarria
Wash and Pack

After Damien, Gerardo, and their teams harvest the best seasonal ingredients on the farm, they bring everything to the barn behind the Farm Stand, where it can be prepared for inclusion in that week’s Harvest Box. Isela Chavarria receives all of the seasonal goodness from the fields and gives it a thorough wash before it gets boxed up. Because we grow everything to Regenerative Organic Certified™ standards and our crops have never encountered synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, you can technically grab anything straight from the ground and take a big bite. Still, we understand that soil isn’t everyone’s preferred seasoning.

“I make sure that all of the vegetables and fruits are clean and beautiful and ready to be packed up,” says Isela, translated from Spanish. “It makes me happy to know that when the food leaves this barn, it’s feeding people in our community.”

Kelly Turner

Before our Harvest Box ingredients arrive at the homes of subscribers to complete their journey from farm to table, they first have an appointment with none other than The Boxing Bettys. “The ladies that I’ve met while volunteering here, that’s what we call ourselves,” Kelly Turner says with a laugh. “We’ve been doing this together for a year, having conversations about why we’re here, and how good it feels to be helping get healthy food to people. It’s a really fun and wonderful community to be part of.”

Every Tuesday, Kelly and the rest of The Boxing Bettys come together in the barn, assemble the Harvest Boxes, and fill them with the fresh flavors of the season. Between Family boxes and Individual boxes, they sometimes put together as many as 300 boxes of delicious produce in a day.

Mickee Avila

Harvest Boxes going to local subscribers make their way from the barn to a booth outside our Farm Stand, where community members can pick them up on Tuesdays, Thursdays, or Saturdays. But for the many subscribers outside of San Juan Capistrano, there’s one last leg in the Harvest Box journey. With our regional farmers markets, Farm Share Coordinator Mickee Avila helps bring a little piece of our farm to the communities of Corona Del Mar, Costa Mesa, Laguna Beach and Encinitas. In each location, Mickee and her team set up beautiful displays that surround the Harvest Boxes with artisan breads, pantry staples, and even more seasonal produce.

Mickee loves connecting with these communities, but more than anything, she loves connecting them to the farm and its mission. “We need more farms—and especially regenerative farms—so the fact that we’re a regenerative organic farm in the middle of Orange County is really special,” she says. “I love coming into work and being able to see important change happening.”