As the citrus season comes to a sweet end and the warmth of spring turns our acres pink, Sweet Girl Farms, a farm stand run by Liset Garcia continues to flourish. At her stand off of Alta Avenue, you will find fresh-squeezed juices, bright ranunculi and various other fresh grown goods.
Garcia is a small organic farmer specializing in herbs, flowers and vegetables. She began her farming journey several years ago when living in Los Angeles. At the time, she worked in healthcare helping women during their pregnancies to receive resources before and after childbirth.
However, life took a turn and she made the switch to farming after an accident that made mobility difficult in her arms and hands. After returning to the Central Valley to live with her parents, she began to plant flowers as a way to heal and move around.
“Flower farming served to me as my physical therapy—my therapist—so I could let go of so much of the physical trauma I was suffering at the time…I was like, ‘Wow, this little seed can grow into something very beautiful and fruitful.’
“I started to put myself in those shoes in the sense that this could be the beginning of something new.”
She began with small and used seeds purchased from big box stores. “It started very basic. I went to Home Depot or Lowe’s, and then I got little trays and my soil. That is how I started to plant a few flowers; the very first flowers I planted at the farm began like that. I just went to buy flower seeds that I thought were cool.”
Next she began exploring herbs, making arrangements and growing vegetables.
Garcia has since moved toward regenerative and sustainable farming practices such as the lasagna method and no till techniques.
With the lasagna method, a layer serves as a barrier, like straw, to diminish the amount of sunlight that the weeds receive, smothering them. The plants at the top are able to grow healthy by racing and beating the weeds in the growth process.
“What I did was purchase a whole bunch of cardboard [and] saved cardboard for a year to cover the plot where I was planning on doing the cardboard method. Finally, I achieved that last winter…It’s been working out really well! I didn’t have to have any equipment really, even though we have it. I opted not to [use that], and it’s been working.”
She is proud that no pesticides or herbicides are used in her farming processes.
Garcia emphasizes the no till practice and its significance for the soil. The soil is essential to healthy plants and must provide a good base to keep things nourished and content to reap good products, she says.
“[The] soil is its own living organism. There’s lots of microorganisms living in there, and they’re the ones that help nourish the soil.
“The soil is the fundamental thing for plants to grasp onto minerals and their nutrients. It maneuvers the plant to have a good growth cycle or a poor growth cycle…That’s where everything is extracted from.
“So then that’s why I emphasize the no till part because I’m trying to make sure we also have a good soil base for the plants to be able to nourish themselves and they can grow really well and give us good products—whether that be the flowers, the herbs or the vegetables.”
Currently, the farm is at the tail end of its bloom season, however, the recent rain and thunderstorms have minimized the number of tourists visiting the farm. Nonetheless, Garcia and her team are enjoying the last of the blooms as young fruits begin to emerge.
“Even though we’ve gotten a lot of rain, again, trying to see the positive in everything…This winter season has hit us with storm after storm after storm…We needed the Valley to have a good drink of water.”
Garcia is putting in an immense effort to get the flowers in on time, however, if that does not happen it will be due to the recent harsh weather conditions. Depending on the results of the crop, she hopes that the outcome will be an opportunity to educate the community and consumers on how local farmers navigate weather-related issues.
The farm welcomes many customers each day and has gained a large following on social media, especially on TikTok where most of Garcia’s content is in Spanish. Her bilingual content reaches a broad audience, and she receives orders from all across the country.
Garcia is thankful for her social media supporters and the local community. “One of the things I really appreciate and love about Reedley (where the farm is based) is that the customers are the ones who spoke out about me in terms of word of mouth [and] giving my farm stand recognition. So that’s how it all stemmed from community support and how I have a supportive customer base.”
As opposed to viewing public health in a formal healthcare setting, her perspective has changed to a more relaxed approach. However, she has the “goal of making communities healthier.”
Sweet Girl Farms is looking forward to more flowers, specifically dahlias, and their upcoming birthday on July 4. “We are gearing up to prep everything for the summertime, and we’re looking forward to the summer harvest. [But] not so much the heat,” she laughs.