“One potato, two potato, three potato, four, five potato, six potato, seven potato, more.” That old-fashioned rhyme doesn’t even begin to account for the 20+ varieties of tubers David Little grows each season. The Tomales area organic farmer specializes in dry-farming, a practice that minimizes or eliminates irrigation in favor coaxing water out of the earth and into the topsoil. The result is some of the best potatoes you’ll ever butter and salt.
Though dry-farming produces a low yield, it has an important advantage over traditional methods: it concentrates the sugars, leading to unbeatable flavor. Just ask Northside restaurants like Greens, Quince, and Michael Mina, all of whom are customers.
A lot of people grow tomatoes this way (notably late summer’s sweet Early Girls), as well as winter squash, cucumbers, and potatoes. The ground is first disked, then plowed and compressed, a process David likens to composting. “It cooks the ground and cleans it,” he says, noting all the rich organic matter that is turned up in the ground.
Some of the heirloom potatoes David grows are the Ozette, a fingerling from Peru, or the Sieglinde, a German variety with thin skin and sweet flesh. One of his most popular is the Red Gold, a yellow-fleshed red potato made for mashing that tastes best once it’s sprouted. David ages them in his barn and, when they’re “wrinkled like prunes,” brings them to market – where they sell out.
The Goods – Organic potatoes
The Markets – Ferry Plaza (Saturdays) and Marin (Sundays). Year-round with a short break in late spring/early summer
Fun Fact – David is raising two goats on the farm. He bottle fed them as babies, thinking he’d start a goat dairy, but now he just tries to keep them from munching the roses.
Originally published in "Fresh from the Farm," Northside San Francisco August 2007. "Fresh from the Farm" is a monthly column on sustainable agriculture, humane husbandry & artisanal food production. Reprinted with permission.