Nancy Gammons is both a longtime organic farmer and the manager of a weekly downtown farmers’ market in the largely Spanish-speaking city of Watsonville. Four Sisters Farm, which she and her husband Robin named in honor of their daughters, produces a variety of fruits, vegetables and flowers on five rolling acres in Aromas, California.
Gammons found her way to both of these callings by following her heart. (“I’ve approached everything in my life,” she says, “in kind of a romantic way.”) After falling in love with the Spanish language in high-school classes, she went on to major in Spanish in college, spending time abroad in Spain. Her facility with the language has since enabled her to make close connections with the Spanish-speaking workers at Four Sisters, and with farmers and other vendors at the Watsonville market.
In the 1960s, Gammons came across a copy of Robert Rodale’s Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening at a friend’s house, and was drawn to Rodale’s rhapsodizing about ‘the deep recesses of the compost pile.’ Again, it was love at first sight. She had her first professional gardening experience in 1970, as an employee of the Esalen Institute, in Big Sur, California. Starting Four Sisters in 1978 on marginally fertile land in the hills of Aromas, California, she and Robin have since built up twenty-eight inches of topsoil using compost and green manure. They grow kiwi fruit, apples, avocados, greens, and flowers.
Gammons’ involvement with farmers’ markets goes back to her participation in the founding of markets in San Francisco (Alemany Market), Berkeley, and downtown Santa Cruz. The Watsonville market hired her as manager not long after its 2000 inception. Under her leadership, it now hosts some forty vendors, and provides unique income-generating opportunities for local Latino farmers and food vendors.
Sarah Rabkin interviewed Nancy Gammons on Monday, January 26th, 2009, at Four Sisters Farm in Aromas, California.