Juan Pablo “J.P.” Perez founded his J & P Organics Community Supported Agriculture program in 2006, while he was a college student, with a subscriber cohort of five friends and advertisements on Craigslist and a campus electronic marketplace. Today, Perez employs his parents and siblings in his expanding farm enterprise, which serves about 300 (and growing) CSA subscribers in towns as geographically and economically disparate as Prunedale, Pacific Grove, and Palo Alto.
J & P Organics offers an unusually generous roster of subscriber options, including home delivery for all customers and a choice of pay-as-you-go weekly, alternate-weeks, or monthly orders. Customers who grow their own vegetables can opt to receive boxes only during the months when their gardens lie fallow. Perez’s CSA boxes contain a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables, plus optional fresh eggs and flowers—and he has plans to include more exotic variety in future shares. He also delivers to restaurants and sells at farmers’ markets, where he creates eye-catching displays to attract customers.
In his mid-twenties, Perez is one of the youngest organic farmers to run such a burgeoning enterprise. His success testifies not only to his dedication, skills, and entrepreneurial savvy, but also to the effectiveness of the program that mentored him and his father in organic farming: the Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association (ALBA). The son of Mexican-born parents, J.P. was born in Salinas, California, in 1983. When the young Perez was a teenager, his father, who was growing raspberries and cut flowers on five acres of leased land in Watsonville, offered him the choice of working full time with him in the fields, or concentrating on school. Fully aware of the hard work and low pay he could expect as a farmer, J.P. opted for school and opportunities for alternative employment.
As it turned out, Perez’s academic career took him full circle. After trying a variety of majors at California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB), he gravitated toward earth systems science and policy. This field of study led him into two internships with ALBA and another at Serendipity Farms in Carmel Valley. Eventually, J.P. persuaded his father, Pablo (the “P” in “J & P”) to enroll with him in ALBA’s Programa Educativa para Pequeños Agricultores (PEPA), which trains small farmers in organic production methods and marketing techniques.
Pablo and his wife, Florencia, now oversee most of the farming operation on acreage that the family leases from ALBA, while J.P. takes primary responsibility for sales and marketing. The family hopes to buy its own farmland, where they aim to raise livestock and orchards as well as row crops.
Sarah Rabkin interviewed J. P. Perez on June 22nd, 2009, at Rabkin’s home in Soquel, California.