Meet a Farmer: Paul Scheid of Ocean Mist Farms
Ocean Mist Farms is known for their artichokes, but they grow over 30 different fresh vegetables.
CA Grown: What are you doing today?
Paul: My day started out with a 7:30 AM administrative meeting and a coffee. I’ll probably work on some paperwork later. Today, my goal is to get out in the fields and onto the ranches to look at everything because our work is keyed off of the observations we make in the field. I love being outside, and being in the fields is where I thrive. I feel very lucky to get to be outside almost every day.
CA Grown: What is your favorite part of farming?
Paul: Seeing all our hard work come to fruition, especially the growth of the crops from start to finish. There are many aspects of farming that people don’t get to see firsthand, and I feel fortunate that I get to see it. Farming can be very challenging at times, and you must be flexible and quick to adapt to be successful. Problems come up all the time because of different variables that are constantly evolving, like weather and pest control challenges. When something isn’t necessarily performing the way you would like it to, it can be hard; this is where adaptability comes in handy. It’s a combination of enjoying the results of your hard work and everything working out just right, and at the same time, it’s the challenge of fixing problems when they arise. When you are dealing with things like Mother Nature, you never know when that will happen.
CA Grown: How do you give back to the community?
Paul: The families that own and still operate Ocean Mist Farms are all local people that are very involved in the community. Their families have been here for generations, and the community is very important to them. Ocean Mist Farms has been a proud supporter of the Annual Artichoke Festival since its inception more than 50 years ago. This festival is an annual non-profit organization that raises funds for local community organizations. I’m proud to say that our community involvement goes beyond the Festival. Ocean Mist Farms is also an annual supporter of various local school programs from science camps to athletic programs and we are also a huge advocate for childhood nutrition, donating salad bars to several schools throughout the country. We also have an annual academic scholarship program that awards $5000 in scholarships each year to deserving students. Ocean Mist Farms is also extremely conscious about our farming methods. An example of this is our water conservation practices. By using recycled water in our crop production, we are able to help preserve natural resources. It’s important to Ocean Mist Farms that the our local and agriculture community continues to grow and prosper.
CA Grown: What drew you to the farming profession?
Paul: When I was younger, I became heavily involved in 4H. I grew up in the Oxnard area, which was and still is in close proximity to a lot of produce growing operations. This started to spark my interest in farming at an early age. In addition, my father was raised on a farm in the Midwest, and based on his experience, he gave me a strong appreciation and passion for farming. I saw the farming way of life when I would visit my grandparents, cousins, etc. back in the Midwest. It was after high school, when I spent several summers working on the farm in Kansas, that I decided I would pursue a career in agriculture. I attended Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and earned a degree in crop science. My intention was to go back to Kansas to the family farm, but I ended up coming to work for Ocean Mist Farms. I’ve been here ever since. It feels like family here. In the Midwest, it’s one farmer on 500 to 1,500 acres, and they are mostly independent, growing a single crop. Here in the Salinas Valley, it’s all about working with lots of employees, organizing and managing all those people while growing multiple crops. There is a double crop system where we are planting and harvesting. The intensity of agriculture is much higher in the Salinas Valley than in the Midwest. I appreciate the daily pace of farming life here, plus the collaborative nature of this farming community.
CA Grown: What are your hobbies or past times when you’re not farming?
Paul: Everything is dictated by my family, which is my first passion. I’m married and have two beautiful children. Being involved in their lives is the center of everything, plus they keep me young at heart.
One of my biggest hobbies, outside of my family is classic cars. I’m interested in foreign models and racing, and working on the mechanics of them. Understanding repairs that are needed on cars by using noise or vibration helps me determine when something might shut down. This mechanical understanding, my hobby, transfers to farming equipment in the field. I get that interest and aptitude from my father. He could do everything; he was a renaissance man. My other passion is cycling. I have participated in Tour de Fresh before and really enjoyed cycling to raise money for salad bars for schools. When you get to do what you love, for a good cause, it’s even more fulfilling.
CA Grown: What advice would give to someone who wants to get into farming?
Paul: I love this question. I’d let them know it’s a good career choice because everyone needs to eat! I would stress that formal education is important, which will give you the basic building blocks for farming. You’ll learn how the plants grow, plant biology, and about all the tools and techniques used in farming. You’re going to learn a lot in college, but you are going to learn twice as much (when you are in a career in agriculture) from the people that are already there. Not just your boss, but also everyone that surrounds you; the tractor drivers, the irrigators, and the supervisors. They will all have something to offer. Glean as much as you can from them, because they are the ones who really know; they have the experience and knowledge. Plus, if you are going to work in agriculture, learning Spanish is critical. Communication is the best tool that you will have when working in the field. Be humble and know that you can learn from everyone.
CA Grown: We know that you have a long list of activities you undertake on your farm to care for the land and your community. What are just one or two of the most innovative that you are proud of?
Paul: When I first started working for Ocean Mist Farms, we had limited amounts of drip irrigation in our fields. Our evolution into this irrigation method is one of the things I’m most proud of. Now, most of our crops are drip irrigated, which conserve water, a valuable farming resource. We’ve developed the tools and processes necessary to ensure that we are handling drip irrigation properly. A lot of people use drip irrigation now, so it’s not as innovative anymore. But because of our experience, we’ve become experts. Because of this learned expertise, our water and fertilizer usage is lower, along with other materials, which is a key to success in the fields.
This company was started by farmers, and it is still run by farmers. Ocean Mist Farms has always made farming a first priority. That keeps us grounded, making conservative, solid decisions all while growing smart. It allows us to be strategic while looking at new innovations and improvements in farming.