So Cal native son Andy Sheaffer is relatively new to farming. For years, he traveled the United States as a contractor specializing in slope stabilization and erosion control. Away from home six months of the year, Sheaffer wanted to spend more time at home with his wife and three children. Born, raised, and educated in Santa Barbara County, he put his feet firmly on home turf in 2008 by purchasing an Avocado and Lemon ranch with a 180 degree view of the Pacific Ocean. Soon after purchasing the land, Sheaffer made some big changes.
Friend and Banana enthusiast Doug Richardson convinced Sheaffer to plant Bananas. Richardson’s Banana farm had produced enough product to sell at local farmers’ markets in the late 80’s and early 90’s, until a landslide wiped out his farm, so he knew the crop could thrive in Ventura’s climate. Sheaffer purchased Richardson’s personal collection of Banana plants, and now has 7 acres of certified organic Bananas.
For five years, Sheaffer’s Banana plants languished, producing very little fruit, and looking sickly. Sheaffer’s farm manager said he wanted to “pull out those weeds” so Sheaffer decided to focus on them. In a brilliant move, Sheaffer interplanted his Banana plants with Avocado trees. The dense planting is highly efficient with regard to water use, and the Bananas love it. The result is improved fruit set, and larger bunches; enough production to sell at several Southern California Farmers’ Markets.
Sheaffer grows eight varieties of Bananas on his organic land, KAOAE Farms. The Bananas’ flavors are markedly different from the commercial Cavendish Bananas imported from the southern hemisphere. Sheaffer’s Bananas have complex flavors, and a pop of acid. The flavor peaks when their peel is fully yellow so even if they are green tip, wait another day or two. Even when so ripe they have brown freckles, the texture of Sheaffer’s Bananas remains creamy and smooth; they just don’t get mealy like commercial Cavendish. Plus, these Bananas are harvested by people who are paid more for an hour of work than commercial Banana harvesters are paid for a full day of harvesting.
Beautifully fragrant, incredibly delicious, responsibly produced, and organically grown in Southern California. There are so many reasons to serve these delicious Bananas!
Image and content contributed by Karen Beverlin, Vice President of Specialty Sales at The Produce Hunter. Follow her as she finds the best of the Santa Monica Farmers Market on Instagram.
The Produce Hunter curates the Farmers’ Markets, and works with small, local family farmers committed to sustainable agriculture,responsible production, and propagation and promotion of fruit and vegetables with exceptional flavor.
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