Arroyo Grande Business Matters

Tall(e)ying Up the Totals from Pumpkins and Grapes

Charlie Brown’s friend Linus would gladly wait in a giant patch in Arroyo Grande for the Great Pumpkin to appear.

It’s that time of year again where people strive to pick the perfect pumpkin, and there is one place where you can do just that while helping others at the same time.

For more than 15 years, Talley Farms has donated the use of their land to grow pumpkins for the Branch School Pumpkin Patch to aid in the school’s fundraising effort. Seeds are donated by Santa Maria Seeds. The amount of land donated each year varies due to crop rotation. Andrea Chavez, the manager of the Talley Farms Fresh Harvest Community Supported Agriculture program, says that this year the Talley family donated 2-3 acres of land.

Each year students plant seeds and in October they take field trips to see the fruits of their labor. The entire school comes to the farm to learn about how pumpkins are grown and each child gets a chance to pick the perfect pumpkin.

The Branch School Pumpkin Patch is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday during the month of October and is located at 3031 Lopez Drive at Talley Vineyards. Most pumpkins can be purchased for $5 or under. Also, supported by local business, Branch pumpkins can be purchased from local retailers like Miner’s Ace Hardware, Farm Supply, and JJ’s Market with all proceeds going directly to the school.

Lori Brown, a chairperson of the fundraiser, said that annually the event generally produces $6,000 – $10,000 for the school. However, in 2015 the little patch raised more than $14,000 according to the school’s newsletter.

This is not the only area where the Talley Family strives to give back to the community. Created in 2004 by Brian and Johnine Talley, owners of Talley Vineyards, the Fund for Vineyard and Farm Workers (FVFW) raises money to for the health and well-being of local field workers.

“Essentially,” said Brian, “it’s an endowment that is held by the Community Foundation of San Luis Obispo County and every year we choose non-profit organizations that are benefitting the farm working community and give grants to them.”

The Community Foundation of San Luis Obispo County (CFSLOC) is an organization that supports non-profits in San Luis Obispo and assists people in donating “strategically.” One of the ways that CFSLOC accomplishes this is by establishing and managing endowments. Rather than simply giving a lump sum to a non-profit, the organization manages endowment funds that garner a larger amount over time. For example, CFSLOC estimates that a gift of $25,000 to an endowment can grow to $44,142 in 20 years and still produce $26,870 in grants during that same time period, according to their website.

“This year we will be granting a total of about $30,000 to different charities that support the farmworker community,” said Brian Talley.

Past recipients of the FVFW include the Tolosa Children’s Dental Center (formerly known as the Clinica De Tolosa), that is the only dental service in the county that strictly treats children; The Noor Foundation, a health-based organization that delivers free medical care for the uninsured; and Raising a Reader, a national non-profit the provides assistance to local agencies with an early literacy and parent engagement program.

“Our mission here is to make sure that the underserved and underinsured children in San Luis Obispo County have access to quality dental care,” said Executive Director of Tolosa Children’s Dental Center, Suzanne Russell.

Russell said that 99% of their patients qualify for medical aid, which means that they are 200% or below the national poverty level and that the clinic sees a lot of farmworker’s children. Currently, a little over half of their clients stem from Paso Robles. The clinic does have a satellite office in SLO that is open once a week, however, Russell says that it is a hope of the clinic to locate funds that will enable the non-profit to have a full-time office in San Luis Obispo to serve children in the South County.

Brian is also donating profits from his cookbook Our California Table: Celebrating the Seasons with the Talley Family to FVFW.

“I just felt a need in the community to support the farmworker community in San Luis Obispo,” said Brian.

The book, which came out earlier this year, lists recipes that include Brian Talley’s Guacamole (pair with Chardonnay) and Raspberry Pie to name a few. The cooking instructions were gleaned from family and friends with many including a wine pairing suggestion.

To donate to the Fund for Vineyard and Farm Workers directly, visit

By Mark A. Diaz

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