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Dan and Tori Crawford, from Amador County, may have felt overwhelmed when they started their Jackson Valley organic vegetable farm. The young couple, who had little agricultural experience, planted their first crops in 2017, the very year of their marriage.
Despite the first setbacks – they initially avoided pesticides and were invaded by insects – Backcountry farms persevered, becoming one of the most popular small farms in the Amador region. Their crops include 40 seasonal vegetables grown on just under two acres off Buena Vista Road in Ione. They serve a loyal local fan base and have become a household item at
Amador farmer’s market.
âWe finally found our rhythm in finding what works and what doesn’t. It’s still a work in progress, but this year we feel like we’ve really succeeded.
Tori Crawford, Co-Owner, Upcountry Farms
âThat first year, we were very naive,â says Tori Crawford, who grew up at Pioneer, on a hot October afternoon as Dan works nearby to finish the fall harvest. âWe google searched, read books and it was a lot of trial and error. We’ve finally found our rhythm in finding what works and what doesn’t. It’s still a work in progress, but this year we feel like we’ve really succeeded.
Dan and Tori met in Chico State and gained experience working together when they were both rafting and hiking tour leaders for the school’s Adventure Outings program, and eventually together led the equipment rental center. Neither studied agriculture: Tori studied psychology and Dan biology.
âWe often joke that together we are one farmer because you need to have a stable mind and some knowledge of the natural land,â says Dan, who grew up in San Jose.
After graduating, the couple stayed in Chico for a few more years, gaining experience working on various small organic farms in the area. âWe returned to Amador County not to start a farm but to be close to our family,â Tori explains. “In a year or two it turned into an opportunity to start a farm, so we gave it a go.”
The couple, who live about 30 minutes from their crops in Amador County, may be less than two acres, but there’s plenty going on in these vast 120-meter-wide beds of fertile topsoil. long. Depending on the season, they grow beets, broccoli, tomatoes (âa really good livelihood,â Dan says), carrots, lettuce, and other âlittle extrasâ like onions and parsley. They started Upcountry
growing and selling flowers as well, but have since ceased to focus solely on vegetables.
Ron Antone, president of the Amador Farmers Market Association and also editor of the Farms of Amador newsletter, calls Upcountry Farms “the two most productive acres you’ll ever see.”
âWe have a waiting list. â¦ I was really amazed. We are very grateful for this support from the community.
Tori Crawford, Co-Owner, Upcountry Farms
âIt’s just packed; they’re so good at what they do, so dedicated, âsays Antone, calling Upcountry the flagship supplier of the Sutter Creek Weekly Market, which runs Saturdays from mid-May to mid-October. Antone says the market has grown in popularity, attracting as many as 600 people a week, which he attributes largely to the Crawfords.
In addition to being regulars at local Farmers’ Market events in Sutter Creek and Plymouth, Upcountry provides fresh vegetables to several local restaurants, and Dan and Tori serve on the board of directors of the Farmers Market Management Committee of Amador. The farm, which has two seasonal part-time workers, really hit its stride during the pandemic, Dan and Tori say, when people craved fresh vegetables but mobility was limited. As a result, Upcountry’s already popular weekly vegetable boxes from Community Supported Agriculture are selling their limit of 75 boxes each week.
âWe have a waiting list,â Tori says. âPlaces never open. I was really amazed. We are very grateful for this support from the community.
They are currently renting the property from Upcountry Farms, but plan to someday own their own farm in Amador County, where their clientele remains rooted. âWe feel like we’ve definitely found the right place to settle down,â Tori says.
As they complete their fourth full harvest year, they remain happy with the business. âWe’re definitely pretty tired at the end of the season,â says Tori. âBut the joy is looking back at how good the season has been and then building on that momentum and moving forward, looking at what we can do better next year.â
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