Small Grant, Big Impact for Allstar Organics

Matt Dolkas - MALT

By Matt Dolkas, Senior Manager, Marketing

June 14, 2023

“In years past, we were only able to grow vegetables here until June,” shared Marty Jacobson, owner and operator, of Allstar Organics, “but then we’d run out of water and, by necessity, would need to continue our growing season by cultivating another location with a stable water supply.” But this spring, Marty, and his wife, Janet Brown, were awarded a grant from MALT to improve the water infrastructure—a small investment that will have a big impact on the farm’s ability to grow food both now and into the future.

Climbing out of his beat-up Ford truck near the farm’s center in Nicasio, our tour began as quickly as Marty’s feet hit verdant soils. Fields thick with leeks, zucchini, tomatoes, fava beans, and garlic were framed by thousands of acres of protected grazing land in every direction. “I’ve never had this many plants in the ground in June,” Marty further shared. “The tank and pump that MALT supported us with this season is going to be a gamechanger.”

For more than 20 years, Marty and Janet have farmed the ten acres of blackened soil at the MALT-protected Lafranchi Ranch, also home to an organic dairy, organic pastured eggs, and the iconic Nicasio Valley Cheese Company. As one of the few flat stretches of growing space in West Marin, it’s among the most agriculturally productive spaces in the county for growing vegetables. But with limited water pressure from the nearby well, the farm’s growing season has been limited to the wetter months of the year.

That is, until now.

Jaime Florencio, Allstar Organic’s foreman, describes the recent water infrastructure improvements supported by MALT’s DRAWS initiative and there impact on the farm’s productivity.

This spring, MALT awarded Allstar Organics a $10,000 grant as part of its Drought Resilience and Water Security (DRAWS) initiative. The new tank and additional pump have increased the water pressure at this farm, making late-season irrigation possible, and the land viable for growing throughout the summer and fall dry seasons. A grant from Quince restaurant’s Feed the Future fund provided the remainder of funding to complete the project. For Marty, Janet, and their crew (pictured above and below), it’s a new beginning growing on this ground year-round.

MALT’s DRAWS initiative began in April of 2021 as an emergency response to extreme drought conditions, one of the region’s driest periods in recorded history. Through the initiative, all agricultural producers in Marin County are eligible for up to $15,000 grants that support water capture and storage. To date, MALT has awarded $916,000 in small grants and implemented 75 drought resilience projects across the county. The impact of these small grants is palpable in conversations with Marty and the farm’s crew.

Walter Florencio prepares for a new planting (top left). Marty Jacobson one of the farm’s owners (top center). The new 5,000 gallon tank installation (top right). And an aerial view of the farm’s center in Nicasio.

After my initial tour, I returned to the farm a few days later to check-in on the progress and see how the new water system was operating. The crew was running irrigation lines for a new tomato crop. It was the first time they had planted Allstar’s signature crop, heirloom tomatoes, on this field, as they’d previously been unable to grow on this ground through dry summer and fall months.

The crews’ commitment to the land was clear through the patience and care with which they tended this field. With more water now available through the peak of the growing season, the farm is better able to plan the season’s crops, and successive plantings, granting a new security for the business, as well as their livelihoods.

Before I left that day I was gifted a small bulb of fresh garlic. Its pungent and nutty flavors were so deeply appreciated that evening having known the ground from which it had originated and the hands that helped put food on my family’s table — a small sampling of the vibrance within Marin’s local food economy. 

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