Four generations and counting: Prevedelli Farms

Apples from Watsonville's Prevedelli Farms at the downtown Santa Cruz farmers market
Apples from Watsonville’s Prevedelli Farms at the downtown Santa Cruz farmers market.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Mutsu, gala, Fuji, crimson crisp, Sommerfeld and beautiful pink pearl. Known for its endless supply of tasty local apples, Watsonville’s Prevedelli Farms banks on farmers markets in Santa Cruz County and neighboring areas to keep its business going.

Farmers Market Fridays

There’s a Fleet Foxes song that goes, “If I had an orchard, I’d work ‘til I’m sore / and you would wait tables and soon run the store.”

With all this youthful, angsty enthusiasm for agriculture, you might be wondering: Where are all the young farmers?

Prevedelli Farms — a multigenerational operation that has been growing produce on the eponymous family’s Watsonville property since 1945 — doesn’t have all the answers, but might have the cure.

Silvia Prevedelli, the family matriarch, greeted me when I recently visited her stand at the downtown Santa Cruz farmers market. She energetically paced and rearranged the day’s spread. The Prevedellis specialize in apples (and sell, at various times in picking season, “over 40 different types”), though they also grow all manner of pears, berries and vegetables.

“Stores don’t want to carry this stuff,” Silvia Prevedelli said. “They’re very fragile, and they bruise. We pick for flavor. We don’t pick for beauty.”

Currently in season are the farm’s mutsu, gala, Fuji, crimson crisp and Sommerfeld apples (its beautiful pink pearl apples — which have a rosy cross-section — are unfortunately out of season, but still in stock). Then there are the farm’s crisp-looking Asian pears, along with olallieberries, French prune plums, pumpkins, costata romanesco zucchini and various tomato varieties. The farm’s jams, made in house, occupy their own small section of the stall.

Most of the farm’s business comes from farmers market sales, a segment in which Prevedelli Farms is prolific. In Santa Cruz County, Prevedelli’s sets up weekly at Cabrillo College and downtown Santa Cruz. The operation also roams widely around the Bay Area, selling at farmers markets in Campbell, Fremont, Monterey, Mountain View, Palo Alto, San Mateo, Saratoga and Sunnyvale. Its remaining business comes from its farm store — which in addition to selling produce, hosts occasional farm-to-table meals that are open to the public.

Silvia Prevedelli at the Prevedelli Farms stand at the downtown Santa Cruz farmers market.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

The Prevedelli operation remains small. Nick Prevedelli, Silvia’s son, says the farm boasts around 10 workers at a time, half being family.

Silvia emigrated from the family’s ancestral stomping grounds around the north Italian town of Trento in 1953. Her late husband, Frank, was a second-generation Prevedelli farmer, and was born in Santa Cruz County in 1931. Their son, Nick, and daughter, Geri — along with Geri’s husband, Sam — represent the family’s third generation. Geri’s son, Chaise, is the sole member of the family’s fourth generation.

Earlier this year, the family announced plans to start a scholarship memorializing Frank Prevedelli, who died in January. The scholarship will “go to a high school student going to college and majoring in agriculture, or related field,” and the family plans to name its first recipients at the end of this school year.

The goal, said Nick Prevedelli, is to educate a new generation of farmers. He said his family is rather unique in its unbroken farming lineage, which stretches back to before the Prevedellis emigrated to the U.S. in the early 1900s. With many family farms, new generations lose interest in their familial occupation — and with them goes the institutional knowledge passed down through the generations.

“You can’t just think about yourself,” Silvia Prevedelli said. “That’s why we like to work on the farm — to preserve the land for future generations. We need to preserve the land for future generations or else we lose the land. And if we lose the land, we lose the food.”

Jams from Watsonville's Prevedelli Farms at the downtown Santa Cruz farmers market
Jams are another of Prevedelli Farms’ farmers market offerings.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

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