As Fresh as It Gets
The luxury of being able to drive minutes down the road to pick your own produce and see exactly where your food is coming from is a huge luxury that Brentwood residents have. The Urban Edge Farm is one of those locations where you are welcome to pick your own fruit, vegetables, and flowers, or simply purchase them from their storefront. Either way, you can see all around you exactly where that purchase is being grown. Chances are you can also speak directly with the farmer.
Robert Cecchini’s family came to the Brentwood area in the early 1900s and started farming. “My husband’s father’s family farmed 1,100 acres out by Discovery Bay, and they grew asparagus there beginning in the 30s,” said Barbara Cecchini. “The family then purchased that property from the owners in the 60s. By the time Robert took over, he was growing around 3,500 acres and we were shipping asparagus all over the world.” Once Mexico began shipping asparagus to California, it was no longer profitable for the Cecchini’s to continue growing that particular produce.
Decades later, the Cecchini’s decided to downsize and purchased a working farm that had already been planted and was ready to go. So, in 2018 The Urban Edge Farm opened on Walnut Boulevard. With the help of their daughter and son-in-law, Allison and Julian Erggelet, Robert and Barbara knew that they wanted to grow strictly organic at the new location. “My daughter started First Generation Farmers, and she had a little patch that was organic on our big farm,” said Barbara. “We were very lucky because the end of The Urban Edge property had not been farmed yet, so we could go in organic right away. It took us three years to certify the rest of the farm.” The Cecchini’s took out any trees that weren’t producing or were sickly and brought the farm back to life. The Urban Edge Farm currently offers lettuce, broccolini, and other winter vegetables; in the summer months they offer lettuce, squash, tomatoes, herbs, cucumbers, and eggplant, and more, in addition to their popular fruit trees.
The Cecchini’s recently planted more persimmons, apples, plums, figs, pluots, and Blenheim apricots, which proves to be the most popular varietal; however, those new trees will take a few years to be ready for harvesting. Julian Erggelet also planted organic wine grapes for his and his brother’s winery, Erggelet Brothers Wine, which can be found in the farm’s store. This year visitors will be able to pick their own peaches (typically late May through September), apricots, figs, cherry tomatoes, and flowers. “Just so visitors are aware, we do not grow cherries,” said Barbara. “We decided to be the farm that doesn’t have cherries, but we do buy them from a local farm to have available in the store.” Whatever produce isn’t open for U-Pick is able to be purchased in the store attached to the front parking lot, along with a multitude of other delicious, locally grown/made goods. You can find a variety of fresh bread, salsas, pies and sweets, wine, spices, nuts, dried fruits, pickles, olive oil and vinegar, cheese, duck eggs, and more.
Last year Barbara added a flower patch, inspired by a worker from Rhode Island who grew and sold her own flowers at the farmer’s market. “She told us that back East U-Pick flowers is very popular, so we decided to put in our own patch and opened it on Mother’s Day last year.” Families can visit The Urban Edge Farm, grab a bucket and some shears, and go out to the patch to fill their container to their heart’s content for $20. “People loved it! Plus, it’s out by the ducks and chickens, which the kids love to watch. I’m hoping to put a small play area back there so that kids can go play and watch the animals while moms pick their own beautiful bouquet.”
In addition to the U-Pick flowers, the Cecchini’s also added community events to their list of offerings last year. Norma of Norma’s Wicked Salsas and Hilary of Cravings & Cookies approached Barbara about hosting pop-up vendor markets at the farm, a win/win for the farm and for local artisans. Barbara was on board, and the ladies hosted three popular events in 2021 where individuals could come and shop everything local. The markets were so popular that the trio will be hosting more in 2022, now held in The Urban Edge Farm’s new parking lot. “Having the vendors in the parking lot will make it much easier than when they were in the orchard last year.”
When asked about the future of The Urban Edge Farm, Barbara is clear that the farm’s focus is on ag tourism. “We want to make this a place that the family wants to visit,” said Barbara. “We’re trying to make it as family-friendly as we can. We even added an Airbnb on the property so families can come stay and enjoy the gorgeous views and even wake up with the roosters.” She would also love to see more support from the local public. “We’re customer supported farming. We don’t sell to the outside; we sell direct, and surprisingly, we don’t get as much local support as you’d think.” With the majority of their visitors traveling from the Fremont area, The Urban Edge Farm would love for that to switch to primarily East Bay residents. “Nothing in our refrigerators is more than two to three days old. You can’t buy anything fresher. It’s a huge difference in taste compared to what you can find in the store.” How can you argue with that?
Photos by: Ron Essex Photography