February 16 – May 31
June 1 – February 15
Happy Quail Farms Then and Now
We’ve been at this for quite some time now—over 30 years— and things have changed a lot…
Happy Quail Farms began when, thinking that I could “lose money as well as anyone,” I decided to go into business for myself. I was unmarried and living in the bay area, and in those early days I sold quail eggs and herbs off of the back of my Vespa at the Palo Alto farmer's market. Some years later, after getting married and having my two boys, it became very clear that the headaches of raising quail weren’t any kind of complement to raising children… so I went back to my roots and switched the farm over to pepper production with just a small flock of chickens to continue the quail’s fowl tradition, provide eggs, eat excess product, and give the neighbors something to complain about.
The Pimiento de Padrón is what first put us on the map of the country’s restaurants, which were increasingly interested in locally sourced produce. As the first people to grow the Padrón in the U.S., we began to distribute the pepper nation-wide and build out a market for this new specialty Spanish pepper. The secret eventually got out and the Padrón would become the commonly-found (and oft-Shishito substituted) pepper that it is today. Due to our farm’s small size, we could never compete on volume with larger operations as they took up cultivation of the pepper. However, on quality we remain the national experts - the quality of Padróns may find at the super market tends to be middling or sometimes they’re simply Shishitos. Though we’ve shifted our focus away from the pepper that made us famous, we continue to grow it and encourage you to give it a try and taste the hype.
We’ve never been a one pepper farm, quite the opposite! Over the years we’ve grown hundreds of different varieties and we’re always ready to try something new. Let us know if there’s a pepper that we should know about; we’re always looking for more! Currently we’re most excited about the Ají Amarillo, the favorite pepper of Peru (typically in season by September/October). Lately we’ve been getting into the processed pepper business with a range of sauces and relishes. Beyond peppers, we’re also the top producer of wild strawberries in the U.S. (Fraise de Bois pictured at head height in the ‘About Us’ banner picture above), grow water cress, tarragon, shies leaf, and have experimented with producing everything from wasabi to tobacco. We’re not afraid of eclecticism.
To put it simply, the story of Happy Quail Farms has been one of evolution and resilience and we’re still going strong all these years later. The boys have graduated college but still make “celebrity appearances” at the farmer’s markets, same as my wife, mother and brother in-law. For those that have been with us all these years, we thank you and for those that have yet to try our produce, we look forward to meeting you.
IN THE PRESS…
David Winsberg of Happy Quail Farms may be best known for peppers—but that’s not all he grows
Farmer David Winsberg is a passionate steward of the land but that’s not what got him from Florida to California. “I came out to be an apprentice glass blower with Billy Bernstein,” he informs his two visitors at Happy Quail Farms in East Palo Alto. “I fell in love with California and worked at various jobs before deciding to do something on my own.
One acre and independence—East Palo Alto's early incarnation as an agrarian utopia may be informing its success in the future
The chicken coops and greenhouses are long-gone, but if one knows just where to look, the City of East Palo Alto still bears some physical reminders of its agrarian past.
Tobacco Leaves Popping Up on Lafitte's Menu
San Francisco's tobacco lovers can finally get their nicotine fix without offending their neighbors or destroying their lungs ― and I'm not talking about those ridiculous electronic cigarettes.
Peppers, Pimientos, and Pervs in Palo Alto—Sweet peppers from Happy Quail Farms, Palo Alto Farmer’s Market
I have a taste memory of savoring Pimientos de Padrón peppers at a tasting a couple years back and being amazed at how delicious they were. They’re so addictive, too! It’s like eating really good potato chips or french fries – you can’t stop at just one. (That is, until you hit the hot one…)
Garlicky Pimiento de Padrón
The farmer’s market at the San Francisco Ferry Building plaza happens on Tuesdays as well as Saturdays! Lucky for me, I work nearby so I can make going on Tuesdays during my lunch time a regular thing. I like strolling there not only because of the market itself but also because I can get a good dose of vitamin D when the fog rolls out and lets the sun shine through.
Pick a Peck of Pimientos de Padrón
Come July, a plateful of pan-fried Padrón peppers become the favorite bar snack of the Eat Local crowd. Small and green, the peppers look innocent but can unexpectedly deliver a searing wallop to the palate.