Typically we offer discussions of grape growing and winemaking on our blog, but this post features Mark Pisoni, our vineyard manager, as star farmer of Pisoni Farms. We are delighted that Mark appears on the cover of the March issue of Vegetables West, as well as inside this issue as its feature story. Writer Patrick Cavanaugh begins by naming Mark as the kind of farmer born to work the land, one who “absolutely loves his job,” and all of us at Pisoni are quick to agree. When Mark isn’t checking the vines or gauging soil health in the family vineyards in the Santa Lucia Highlands, you can find him overseeing the romaine planted last December on Pisoni’s Farm or monitoring the growth of the broccoli he planted alongside his team in mid-November.
As part of the Valley’s vegetable powerhouse, Mark oversees a range of crops like cauliflower and arugula as well as broccoli and lettuces for the Pisonis on the family farm. Broccoli, lettuce, and other cold-climate vegetables thrive in the same climate conditions that Pinot Noir requires. But where our hillside soils are lean and granitic, the soils of the Valley floor are rich in nutrients and high in the clay that helps earth retain moisture. Even as, all over the globe, we experience great difficulty and disruption because of the pandemic, these vegetables are growing steadily under the rain and the increasing sun. In not too long they will help comprise the produce that “shippers stitch together” throughout the Valley, providing “a steady stream of vegetables for the marketplace,” Mark notes. And of course it is vegetables in particular which keep us and our immune systems healthy by providing us with good nutrition.
Mark Pisoni was born to work the land.Patrick Cavanaugh
In the Vegetables West piece, Mark, with typical grace, spends as much time in this feature story discussing the work of his excellent farm team as he does discussing himself and his family. In his role as steward of Pisoni Farms, just as in his job as vineyard manager, Mark sustains family tradition even as he furthers it. If he and his brother Jeff, the family’s vintner, are “blessed to be mentored by my grandparents and my dad, Gary Pisoni,” they are equally fortunate to have the expert help of “our dedicated farm team,” people “are willing to share their ideas on the farm, which helps us become better farmers,” Mark explains. Among the individuals who “are mentors and teachers for me,” he names right-hand man Jesús Camacho, who has been working with the Pisoni family since Edward and Jane Pisoni first began farming in the Salinas Valley just after WWII. Then there is the “super talented” Jazmin Lopez, who has been working closely with Mark since 2015 as manager of Pisoni Farm’s compliance and wide-ranging sustainability programs, and who has not only helped the family save energy but who also maintains its insectary that promotes populations of beneficial insects.
It is a welcome surprise, as we look ahead to spring and summer vegetable crops and the grape harvest that follows them, to see Mark and his farm team honored by the magazine.