When Jeff and Nicolina Alves graduated from Chico State University with degrees in agriculture and business, neither of them were quite sure where that educational background would take them. One thing they did know was that 9-to-5 corporate America wasn’t in the cards.
That’s what prompted their participation in a weekly farmers market. Now, just three short years later, the couple and their farm, Terra Bella Ranch, are at the forefront of organic and sustainable foods in Southern California.
“We are passionate about agriculture education and delicious foods grown right here in our Golden State,” the couple says via the Terra Bella Ranch Facebook page, which has just hit 200 followers. “When you shop at our stand you know you will be getting quality produce and a one of a kind agriculture experience.”
The Alves’ commitment to providing quality produce to families throughout California is just one of the reasons that their stand has become one of the most popular at the . Each Sunday, dozens of marketgoers flock to the Terra Bella Ranch stand for products such as black mission figs, almonds, walnuts, sun-dried tomatoes or, my personal favorite, sun-dried apricots. The Terra Bella Ranch has also become a hit with their Fresh Fuerte & Hass avocados.
But what further sets Terra Bella Ranch apart from other market exhibitors is their goal of forging strong, personal relationships with their customers.
“We love people and want to provide an experience for our customers,” the Alves said. “When shopping at one of our farmers market locations, family consumers and food establishments will discover fresh, local foods that are in season, facts about California & American agriculture … and delicious recipes from our family.”
The Terra Bella Ranch, which means “beautiful land” in Italian, is located in the De Luz Valley, near Temecula. In addition to participating in farmers markets throughout the area, including Leucadia, Little Italy, and Hillcrest, Terra Bella Ranch also has products available at several restaurants and bakeries, including Michele Coulon Dessertier in La Jolla.
Fittingly, Jeff and Nicolina also take a large role in the local food movement, and are members of Slow Food Temecula Valley, a non-profit organization with the goal of counteracting “fast food and fast life,” and “encouraging knowing where food is grown.”
For their part, the Alves hope to bring the experience back to eating and educate others on the significance of fresh, locally grown produce.
“We don’t want to just be selling products,” the pair said. “We want to create experiences for our new friends that shop markets through agriculture education.”