January Grower Spotlight of the month - Martin Gramckow - Ventura County Agricultural Education
Martin Gramckow is one of the first farmers/growers I met in Ventura County back in 2008. Now he is known for being a trail blazer in hydroponic raspberry production. He was a Board Member for the Resource Conservation District of Ventura County, (RCD), where I worked, and initially came up with my approach to agricultural education. I knew right away he had a mind for numbers and order. He was the kind of man who is the seeker of truth through math and clear pragmatism. It all makes sense to me now that I know he is a Stanford grad with a degree in engineering. This makes me think back to days I worked at Cannondale Corporation. The VP of Sales always said, “Numbers don’t lie”. I bet Martin has this same credo, which he applies to his expertise in growing hydroponic raspberries.Mackenzie Gaulke, John Phaneuf and I met Martin on his property in the Oxnard Plain on a absolutely gorgeous Ventura County January “winter” day. It was one of those days when you are beyond appreciative you live in this Southern California paradise — you could see for miles down the Oxard Plain and the sky was dotted with winter clouds. When Martin stepped out of his Toyota FWD he was in a great mood and very proud of his hydroponic raspberries, hoop houses and his new highly advanced Priva irrigation watering system — as he should be! If Martin is going to grow something and put his stamp of approval on it, you can be guaranteed it’s going to be highly efficient and the absolute best on the market.
This Priva irrigation system is a state-of-the-art computerized watering system. Priva develops and produces innovative solutions on the field of climate, water, energy and productivity; and aims for optimal efficiency for the horticultural processes. Martin explained, “A cross-section of his hydroponic raspberries, approximately 6 plants, were situated on sensors”. These precise, highly sensitive, sensors measure the weight of the whole growth container and the humidity. The heavier the container the less water is needed. This is highly precise detector measures down to the ounce. This collected data is sent to a computer 100 yards away, which then computes the exact amount of water that needs to be fed into the irrigation lines.
Martin grows his raspberries for Driscolls. This system he has created is so state of the art he has farmers from all over the state visiting to learn more. Martin explained, “This sustainable model of climate control and water preservation is the future of farming”. Farmers are going to have to adopt these technical models to stay profitable and conserve natural resources.
Martin also grows sod for landscaping purposes. Sod took a big hit when the real-estate market crashed in the Southern California. Lately, he has seen an increase now that the market is back up. That’s what I love about our Ventura County growers: they are quick to respond to adversity. Sod was down, so Martin decided to grow raspberries, but not in the old-fashioned way. Instead, he chose the most advanced away possible. And let me tell you, those raspberries are absolutely delicious.
We ended the day is Martin’s office, which overlooks his lovely raspberry plants, bright green sod and hoop houses. Raspberries are dependent upon bee pollinators, and of course bees make honey. If Martin wasn’t eco-friendly enough, he takes sustainability to the next level and collects delectable raspberry blossom honey and gives it away to clients and friends, like SEEAG.
To learn more about Martin Gramckow and his Priva system visit – Martin Gramckow and Priva
- 8 packages (3 pounds or 10 cups) Driscoll’s Raspberries
- 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 3 cups sugar, divided
- 5 teaspoons calcium water
- 5 teaspoons Pomona’s Universal Pectin powder
Place raspberries, lemon zest and juice, and 1 1/2 cups of the sugar in a medium saucepan. Stir and mash until mixed well. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer 20 to 30 minutes. Stir occasionally to keep the bottom from burning.
After simmering, you will have approximately 2 quarts (8 cups) of raspberry mixture. Strain half (1 quart or 4 cups) of the berry mixture, which should yield about 3 cups. Discard seeds and pulp. Pour strained berries back into the saucepan with unstrained berries and add calcium water. Bring mixture to a boil. In a separate bowl, combine pectin powder and remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar. Add to raspberry mixture. Stir to completely dissolve. Return to a boil, stirring often until the jam thickens. Skim off any foam. Test for done-ness using a chilled plate.
Pour a bit of the fruit spread onto a plate and stick it in the freezer for a few minutes. When you take the plate out, check to see if any juice has separated from the pulp. (Alternatively, you can chill a plate in the freezer and then add a spoonful of preserves to see if it separates.) If separation occurs, the mixture needs to be cooked more. If it holds its shape, it’s ready to be ladled into jars.
Ladle into hot jars, Ieaving 1/4-inch headspace. Check for air bubbles, wipe the rims, and seal. Set jars in a pot of boiling water, ensuring that there is enough water to cover the lids by 1-inch. Let jars boil for 10 minutes. Processing at higher altitudes require additional time.