History of Harvest Time and the Brentwood Region
In the East Contra Costa County area a need was perceived in the early 70′s to do something more than just sell produce to packers. This feeling was probably intensified by a year or two of unusually low farm prices. However, farmers then did not organize well, for that meant jeopardizing their individuality and independence. They overcame that, and with the help of the Contra Costa Farm Bureau, set out to develop a set of by-laws and organize themselves into a group to educate the general public about farming in the “Brentwood Region”.
They then organized, pursuant to the General Nonprofit Corporation Law of the State of California. Articles of Incorporation were then filed and recorded with the Contra Costa County Recorder May 17, 1976. Harvest Time, Inc. was born, and although the official name was Harvest Time in Brentwood, Inc., any farm or ranch in Contra Costa County was welcome to join, regardless of whether or not they were in Brentwood. Today, we call this the Brentwood Region, which includes Byron, Oakley and Knightsen.
From the by-laws: purpose was to educate folks (including children) about the source of their food through direct contact with the farmers and subsequently improve conditions of producers of agricultural commodities in Contra Costa County, operating farms stands/markets on or near the place where such commodities were produced.
- Jack Bloomfield
- Tino Bacchini
- Lee Laird
- Glenn Stonebarger Sr.
- John Slatten
At the beginning, there were probably not more than ten members; however the records I’ve salvaged go back no further than 1981. By that time, the group had grown to 29 members, only 10 of which remain today. Others have replaced them, new members have joined and we now stand at 40+ farm-members.
Reasons for Joining
- Better exposure for existing business to educte the general public
- Opportunity to allow people to meet you and hear your farm message
- Establishment of new operation
- Exposure to a greater audience through group collaboration
- Being part of the “big picture”, raising awareness about the bounty that you work hard for.
From 1984 through 1988, the directors organized fund raising BBQs held alternately at George Nunn Farms on Sunset Road and the Gursky Ranch on Apricot Way as a means to finance advertising, a public relations person, and to offset the cost of publishing the annual farm trail map, all with the goal to keep membership dues down, thus attracting new members.
Under the leadership of Ray Harris, a very astute merchandiser with an innovative eye to advertising in the mid 80’s, Harvest Time made several changes. Not the least of which was the introduction of advertising in the annual map/brochure. The first advertiser in 1985 was Brentwood Café. Other changes involved switching printers and a total redesign of the map. In 1986 the Harvest Time signs were redesigned and a new color scheme adopted. This was changed again in 2003 with a more forceful and attractive design which has since replaced all the original signs.
By 1993 the organization no longer felt the need for monthly Director meetings, and the offices of Secretary and Treasurer were combined. Meredith Nunn of the Farmer’s Daughter Produce Stand was elected President, Roy Gursky of Gursky Ranch assumed the added duty of Secretary to his then office of Treasurer. Both had been re-elected, maintained those positions and handled the day-to-day operations for the organization until 2004. We now have a full directorship of five farmer-members with one alternate running our organization and making our day-to-day decisions, the biggest one being the production and review of the annual brochure/map before it goes to print and supporting/promoting “agri-tourism” education in the Brentwood Region.
Since 1995 the members decided to eliminate print advertising in newspapers from the budget and reduce membership dues. The largest contributing factor to this decision was the success of distribution of the map by the operators of U-Pick cherry farms and ranches in the area. While in 1981 there were only seven members offering U-Pick cherries on less than 90 acres, today there are over twenty offering over 350 acres (about 1,500 tons in an average year). These members account for distribution of over 40,000 of our annual educational farm trail maps. The purpose of distribution of the map, of course, is to expose and educate folks to the rest of the farms and ranches that make up Harvest Time and offer much more than just cherries. Placement of maps at the Chamber of Commerce, local businesses and new housing developments contribute another 20,000 maps distributed. The distribution of the balance of 15,000 maps printed in now came from the rest of the members at their operations and local businesses after cherry season. Our web site now gets over 150’000 “hits” a year, which may also contribute to the fact we are sending out less brochures now than in the past.
While the Harvest Time members offer over 640 acres for U-Pick fruits, vegetables, tours and educational programs some prefer to offer their produce strictly as Picked from over 200 other acres at various fruit, vegetable and nursery stands located throughout the Brentwood Region. Some of these same folks are now participating in the Downtown Brentwood Farmers Market, since that was established in 2004 to further expose their outside-of-town venues, and get the “locals” to see where the produce comes from.
The current map/brochure lists all of the members, what they offer and when their offerings are available. Typically, most roadside stands get going around the middle of May at the start of the cherry season and the balance of the growing season bounty continues throughout the Summer months and into the late Fall. The current year map is usually available in the first part of May.
With the continued growth of the area comes added pressure to continue farming at all by many of the members, but those that survive should see increased demand for their products from the increasing population as long as the “newcomers” are aware that Harvest Time exists as one of the “Biggest Farmer’s Markets” in the Brentwood Region and is just around their corner and down the road no more than five miles from downtown Brentwood.
Although development in the area has eliminated many of our growers, the remaining farms and ranches offering their produce as either U-Pick or Picked are still going strong with the freshest, ripest, and tastiest produce available anywhere.
Take the time and visit the members during the week or weekend with your friends and family for a unique opportunity to see where the produce you see in the stores originates. Meet the farmers and learn what it takes to produce these wonderful pieces of Mother Natures art and take home some of the freshest produce available.
(Roy Gursky) Revised 5/24/2009