After providing the Turlock community with fresh, organic produce for years, Ellie and Charley Fernandez of Ellie and Charley’s Natural Garden are leaving their home at the Turlock Certified Farmers Market to enjoy retirement in Hawaii.
“The people of Turlock have been very good to us,” said Charley Fernandez. “We’re sad to leave, but everything comes to an end sooner or later.”
Charley and Ellie came to California from Hawaii 30 years ago after Charley was transferred to the state for work. When the company that Charley worked for collapsed, he and Ellie cultivated what was once a ranch in Patterson into a garden full of colorful produce, naming the project Ellie and Charley’s Food Farm.
With Ellie and Charley’s grandchildren coming to visit the garden frequently, the pair eventually became more conscious about how they were raising their produce. Fears of chemicals and other dangerous substances prompted the couple to grow all of their food organically, and they changed their farm’s name to Ellie and Charley’s Natural Garden. All of the produce grown in their garden is California Certified Organic, and the two have been selling their goods at TCFM since its days on Broadway Avenue.
“It’s been a little challenging but I like it,” said Charley of growing organic produce.
As a local grower, Charley believes that buying food directly from the source, such as at the local farmers market, is the best way to know the quality of food you are eating.
“The farmers market gives customers the chance to talk to the guy who’s growing their food,” said Charley. “And, they can look at us and see the results of what we grow.”
Throughout the garden’s years at TCFM, Charlie and Ellie have come to know their customers personally, sharing recipes, ideas and gardening tips with each other. It’s their loyalty that Charley and Ellie will miss the most, such as one customer who travels from Lake Tahoe once a month to visit and purchase organic produce from the couple.
“I enjoy seeing the people on Saturday mornings,” said Charley. “We’ve made many good friends, and the customers have been good and loyal to us. We’ll miss their appreciation and friendliness.”
Ellie and Charley plan to sell the farm and return to Hawaii for their retirement in early 2017. The couple has family there, including two new great grandchildren. Charley hopes to settle down in a “little place,” where he will cultivate a new garden – this time filled with gardenias rather than produce.
“We’re ready to go back and spend some time with our family,” said Charley.
TCFM has planned a retirement party for Ellie and Charley, which will take place during the market on Oct. 22 at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds.