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When the Raineris purchased a five-acre property in San Martin four years ago, Joe wanted a chance to “dabble” in farming, while his wife Lisa, a lifelong cook who is a master with tomato sauces, wanted fresh, home-grown ingredients to use in her dishes.
The 70-year-old home on the property needed some work. Joe, a LEED-certified green builder by trade, took the home down to its studs. But the Raineris didn’t stop there: they added a greenhouse as well as a large indoor gathering structure with an attached outdoor kitchen.
And that little “dabble” into farming turned into quite a bit more. The property is filled with 2,000 heirloom tomato plants, totaling 60 varieties, as well as countless zucchini, artichoke, basil, pepper and other plants that make up the edible landscaping.
The Raineris have dubbed their property Terra Amico Farms, meaning “Earth Friend” in Italian, and they have big plans for their growing boutique operation on California Avenue.
“There’s something really nourishing to the soul about getting your hands in the dirt, growing your own food and knowing where it comes from,” Joe Raineri said. “Being outdoors is amazing. I’ve always enjoyed gardening. I just escalated that.”
They were drawn to tomatoes because of their versatility in cooking, used in everything from marinaras to hot sauces and Bloody Marys.
After sharing their tomatoes with friends, neighbors, chefs and others, the Raineris said they began receiving many requests to purchase their crops.
Hot sauce, Bloody Mary salt and roasted heirloom tomatoes are some of the canned products using Terra Amico Farms’ crops. Photo: Erik Chalhoub
Now, Terra Amico Farms, which is certified by the California Certified Organic Farmers, operates a farmstand, supplies some local restaurants, and its tomatoes are used for jelly and other canned products by Watsonville-based Terroir in a Jar.
Raineri is also known for his reclaimed wood pieces, which can be found throughout the farm in the form of tables, doors, planter boxes and countless other items.
His passion for woodworking has also turned into another successful operation. After the 2008 stock market crash, Raineri, fresh out of a job, decided to build a table using salvaged redwood lumber in his backyard.
After finishing the piece, Lisa Raineri posted an ad online for the table, and it sold the same day. It snowballed from there, and his work can be found at several Bay Area tech companies such as Google and Facebook, as well as in a number of restaurants and establishments.
That desire to reuse and recycle can also be found in Terra Amico’s regenerative farming practices.
The farmers rotate their tomato crop on different portions of the property by season. When the tomato plants exhaust themselves, they are replaced with a cover crop, which infuses the soil with nutrients necessary for the tomatoes to thrive in a coming season.
The plants themselves are grown by seed in the greenhouse, while worms decompose organic matter into valuable soil nutrients.
“It requires the space and the patience,” said Shannon Keener, the farm’s program coordinator. “It’s all going full circle.”
As summer is now in full swing, and Covid-19 vaccinations continue their slow rise, Keener has organized a slew of events at the farm to get the public outdoors and excited about farming.
A series of farm-to-table dinner events are scheduled, with the next taking place July 16. The farm has tapped Morgan Hill-based chef Tommy Palmer, who runs a cottage food operation, to design a seven-course Italian dinner. The events will also feature live music and wine from the nearby Lion Ranch Vineyards and Winery.
Cooking demos are also on the schedule, featuring the Scooter Chefs teaching attendees techniques using ingredients from the farm. The next demonstration is set for July 17.
For information and tickets, visit terraamicofarms.com.
A June 5 dinner at Terra Amico Farms, featuring dishes by Chef Tommy Palmer. Photo courtesy of Terra Amico Farms
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