When Adam Sanders first walked through our door a year ago, I must admit that I had never heard of his small company. But from our first conversation, I knew that we would forge a great relationship. Copala distributes produce from a small collective of organic farms in the Salinas valley and Hollister area.
What is so unique about this farm collective is that all of the farmers are Mixtec, Triqui, or other ethnic minority immigrants from the Mexican state of Oaxaca. Because it goes essentially unreported, most of the world is unaware that there is discrimination and violent repression waged against these ethnic minority villages in Oaxaca by the regimes in political power. Adam first became involved with this community while working as a juvenile probation officer, and upon realizing their plight, has become a tireless advocate for those seeking political asylum in the US. While a very small percentage of political asylum cases brought before a judge are successful, 100% of the immigrants that Adam has helped have been granted asylum.
Most of these immigrants were subsistence farmers back in their villages. They were already using organic farming practices because that was all that they knew. Adam saw this as an opportunity for this community to build a life here in America, doing what came naturally. All he had to do was connect the farmers with chefs and grocers who wanted their produce.
What was so exciting for me was that through Adam, I was able to ask these farmers to grow certain produce that was familiar to them in Oaxaca, but unavailable until now in the Bay Area. This last year, Adam brought seed from Mexico, and the Copala farmers started growing several heretofore unavailable chiles , herbs and greens, that have become important staples on our menu.
This past Tuesday, we had the opportunity to host Adam and one of his Triqui farmers, Francisco, for a special Oaxacan Harvest Dinner and wine pairing that highlighted produce grown on their farms. It was truly a special event for those who attended, and a thrill for Francisco to sit at the table and eat the fruits of his labor. As the days grow short and the fields are turned over, we’d would like to thank Adam and his farmers for bring fantastic produce to our table, and look forward to next year’s harvest.