Next Generation Farmer: Lizzy Glashoff

August 5, 2011

sites/default/files/glashoff_lizzyjpg.jpgLizzy Glashoff is a farm girl through and through. As a member of 4-H and Future Farmers of America (in elementary and high school, respectively), she raised chickens, learned to cook and preserve fruit, and even took a beef cattle class — all before going to college. 

That might explain why, when her parents asked whether she and her older brother Jacob wanted to take over the core operations of her family’s walnut, berry, and citrus farm, Lizzy didn’t have to think very hard before saying yes.

Big Shoes to Fill

Last year, Lizzy’s dad, Larry Glashoff, was offered a job working with small farmers in rural China, and his wife Maria decided to accompany him for a good portion of the year.  They considered leasing out their property and letting go of the farm, but their adult children have agreed to run Glashoff Farms in their absence.

“I’m putting in around 100% more effort,” says Lizzy, who went from helping out with marketing and farmers markets to essentially co-running the business. She does the farm’s books, supervises eight employees throughout the fruit and nut harvests, and oversees production of the value-added products like jam, jelly, and walnut oil. Meanwhile, her older Jacob has “been in charge of the mechanical side of things, and any fertilizers and spraying that needs to get done,” she says. Their second brother, Lucas, staffs market booths when he’s not in Southern California attending film school.

The year has been a “huge learning curve,” says Lizzy. The farm was impacted by a berry-loving fruit fly called the Spotted Wing Drosophila, and the cold, wet spring delayed much of the fruit production. “I like being in control, and in farming there are so many factors I can’t control,” she says. “So I’ve had to kind of step back and say ok, I’ll do what I can.”

All in the Family

sites/default/files/glashoff_lizzy_tour.jpg“I never really had a rebellious phase,” says Lizzy, who has lived on or near the farm for most of her 26 years (minus four years in Chico in school and a semester in Italy). She’s interested in carrying on the business, in part, because she realizes just how rare farms like her family’s have become. And while much of the farmland around them in the Suisun Valley is protected by land conservation incentives, she sees development encroaching. “I love what we do. It’s not always the easiest thing, but it’s what we’ve always done and it would break my heart if we weren’t farming anymore,” she says.

Of course, conveying the family’s core values to farmer markets sales staff (many of whom aren’t likely to see the job as a major career move) can be tough. “The biggest trouble my mom and I have had is really getting our employees emotionally invested in our company,” says Lizzy. Toward that effort, she likes to make sure each employee gets to see the farm from the inside out; she shows them “how much labor it requires and how much care is taken in every process.” The Glashoff preserves, for example, are made with four parts of fruit to every one part of sugar, rather than the one-to-one ratio that is commonly used.

They’re also committed to growing and picking fruit that many other farmers wouldn’t deem worth the work. The boysenberries they grow, for instance, have a short season and a shelf life of only around four days, making their survival en route to conventional grocery stores — from cold storage to wholesaler to stock room to produce shelf — nearly impossible. “But,” says Lizzy, “we choose to grow those because they’re a fruit that we like and we think the public deserves to really experience them.”

And when she says we, Lizzy means it. Her ultimate goal is to incorporate her undergraduate degree in event planning into her work on the farm by hosting on-farm weddings that would allow more people to appreciate the land she knows and loves. But, for now, with her parents gone so much of the time, she’s just awfully busy keeping the farm going.

“I’m grateful to be experiencing the farm from a different point of view; it’s something I’m in charge of now. That has been really gratifying because I feel like I’m doing something right. And I’m making my parents happy with their choice to let my brothers and me take care of everything.”

Photos of the CUESA Farm tour to Glashoff Farms by Barry Jan.

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