For an enterprise that’s been around as long as Webb Ranch — 35 years, if you’re curious — using the word “startup” sounds a bit curious. But that’s exactly how second-generation farmer Gary Webb characterizes the organic herb business he started earlier this year.
“In a way, it’s something to keep my 91-year-old Dad involved,” says Gary. “My mom died last year, and he lives next door to us and we watch out for him. The new herb garden is just outside our back door.”
Gary planted 27 different herbs, focusing on culinary and medicinal uses, with some, like licorice mint, being pet- and kid-friendly. The early favorite is basil. He grows three varities including leaf basil, which can be used like lettuce in salads. (pictured in photo).
“It’s a little milder than regular basil,” he says. “I like to take a good-size leaf and wrap it around some tuna fish and chives.”
The organically grown herbs are for sale at the Webb Ranch produce market on Alpine Rd. in Menlo Park. They come in four- inch pots as well as larger one- and two-gallon sizes. Gary points out the latter don’t need to be replanted; the herb can be harvested as the plant grows. If replanted, he recommends weekly watering.
One prospect that intrigues Gary is the possibility of farming year-round. “A farmer’s life is pedal-to-the-metal during the summer growing season, but it’s quiet in the winter. I’ve just started to talk to some local outlets about selling the herbs after the produce stand closes.”
Currently he counts as his customers family and real chefs, one of whom was shopping during our visit. “The culinary herbs are the out-of-the gate hit, but I think that’s because people don’t know as much about the medicinal herbs,” he says. “It’s all about education.”
We couldn’t let a visit go by without inquiring about the timetable for Webb Ranch’s famous Ace tomatoes. It seems patience is required this year due to the long period of cool weather in June.
Reports Gary: “We expect them at the end of August — and have planted some new basil to go along with them!”
Photo by Scott R.Kline