All Things Artichokes with Ocean Mist Farms CEO & President, Chris Drew
In Episode 40 of the Kitchen Confidante Podcast, Liren talks to Chris Drew, the CEO and President of Ocean Mist Farms, on location in Castroville, California, which is now known as the Artichoke Capital of the World. In this episode, they chat about all things artichokes, including Ocean Mist’s farming history, the artichoke varieties they grow, Chris’ favorite way to enjoy artichokes, and more!
I recently spoke with Chris Drew, the CEO & President of Ocean Mist Farms. Chris oversees Ocean Mist Farms, the largest grower of artichokes in the United States. With family farming roots dating back nearly a century, Ocean Mist Farms was founded in Castroville, California, near the Monterey coast, and is now known as the Artichoke Capital of the World.
In my first in-person interview for the podcast, Chris and I chatted about all things artichokes, including Ocean Mist’s farming history and family values, the artichoke varieties they grow, his favorite way to enjoy artichokes, and more.
Before this interview, I had the privilege of spending the day in the Ocean Mist fields, learning about their artichoke harvest, production, packaging, and more.
Listen to the full episode here, or keep reading for some of my favorite moments with Chris.
Tell us more about your career journey to Ocean Mist Farms
I knew I wanted to have a career in farming and agriculture ever since I was 15 when I visited my grandfather’s corn and soybean farm in Central Illinois. I walked out on his ranch one Thanksgiving, and my interest has only grown since.
When I was 18, I took my first job at a local business called Head Start Nursery that grows vegetable transplants, meaning they grow vegetables in trays and then bring them out into the fields instead of growing them directly from seed. I worked that job on summer and winter breaks throughout college while earning my crop science degree. In 2004, I took a job at Sea Mist Farms, an entity of Ocean Mist. Since then, I’ve worked various roles throughout the Ocean Mist organization and am now the president and CEO, and my passion for production agriculture has never faltered!
Ocean Mist is a family-owned and family-oriented business where everyone knows everyone works together for shared success. It is a fun and exciting place to work where everyone loves what they do. I like to joke that we are backyard gardeners on a large scale.
Tell us more about Ocean Mist artichokes
Artichokes were brought to this area in the mid-1800s and were planted all along the hills of South San Francisco. As the demand for land increased, they moved to the Castroville area, which is now considered the artichoke center of the world. Located in the center of Monterrey Bay, Castroville has a remarkable, unique microclimate with a coastal influence. During the summer, the daytime and nighttime temperatures are cool and stable, which allows the artichokes to thrive year-round.
Artichokes are traditionally seasonal vegetables, but we can use breeding, weather, climate, advanced farming technology, and multiple growing locations around the area to produce our gold standard artichokes year-round.
We also grow several artichoke varieties with slightly different growing seasons. Our Green globe variety is the original heirloom variety. We have also developed the Globe variety, our annual variety, which grows large-sized artichokes year-round, which you can find 365 days a year. The Purple artichoke is a new seasonal variety similar in flavor profile to our original heirloom variety; it is delicious and a beautiful conversation piece when it’s on your plate. Our Frost-Kissed variety, which grows in the colder season and has a sweeter flavor, and we also grow Cardoni (cardoon), which is an artichoke relative where you eat the stems instead of the bud of the artichoke.
What else is grown on Ocean Mist Farms?
Ocean Mist may be known for artichokes, but we also grow 20 other commodities, including cool-season vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, celery, and leaf lettuce.