Food & Drink

Pepper Creek Family Farms grows hope in Arroyo Grande

Pico de gallo at Pepper Creek Family Farms in Arroyo Grande.
Pico de gallo at Pepper Creek Family Farms in Arroyo Grande.

Throughout the year, Pepper Creek Family Farms grows a couple hundred varieties of pesticide-free produce on their 15-acre Huasna Valley property. The Boyd family’s current bounty includes the foundation for a mouthwatering pico de gallo salsa.

Literally translated as “beak of rooster,” pico de gallo is an uncooked, fresh salsa, or, salsa fresco, that’s very simple to make. Just roughly mince tomatoes, onions, jalapeño peppers and cilantro, mix them together with a little salt and lime juice. Then reach for the chips.

Though jalapeños are still several weeks away, you’ll find Early Girl tomatoes, sweet candy white and red onions, juicy limes and living cilantro at the Pepper Creek farmers market booth. As with butter lettuce, living cilantro is sold with the root ball still on and should be kept wet.

Pepper Creek operations include a hydroponic greenhouse that allows the Boyd family to grow several types of leafy greens year-round, including butter lettuce. Essentially, nutrients are delivered to the growing crops via water, not soil.

All the water is recycled, with the only loss coming from the plant’s transpiration through their leaves, explained Eric Boyd, who works the family farming business with his mother Diane Boyd, brother Morgan Boyd and sister Jessica Newell.

All of Pepper Creek’s crops are grown without pesticides. “We select very specific varieties that taste the best,” Eric Boyd said. “We’re growing for quality, not yield.”

Evidently, that approach is yielding results. More than a dozen of San Luis Obispo County’s best restaurants – Ember in Arroyo Grande and Luna Red, Novo Restaurant & Lounge and Foremost Wine Company in San Luis Obispo among them —source produce from Pepper Creek.

In addition to growing flavorful fruits and veggies, Boyd family members are using their roots in agriculture to raise something else.

Both Eric and Morgan Boyd are combat veterans, having joined the U.S. Army as cavalry scouts a week after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“I was 17 and he was 22,” Eric Boyd said. “We served together in Iraq for our first tours. I was wounded from a gunshot wound in the leg while at a traffic control point in Fallujah. I finished that tour and served one more in Iraq before retiring out.”

His brother, he added, served his second tour in Afghanistan as a platoon leader and retired 18 months ago as a captain.

Morgan Boyd is now working towards his master’s degree in public policy with a focus on veterans’ issues, while Eric Boyd received a bachelor’s degree in soil science from Cal Poly.

Eric Boyd teaches a course in sustainable soil management through the Veterans Sustainable Agriculture Training (VSAT) program in Escondido, a concept the Boyd family would like to bring to the Central Coast.

“We are actually working to establish a training center on our farm for veterans wanting to work in sustainable agriculture,” he said.

Pepper Creek Family Farms

Keep tabs on what’s in season from Pepper Creek Family Farms via their Facebook page,, or visit them at one of six local farmers markets: Tuesdays in Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo; Thursdays in Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo; and Wednesdays and Saturdays in Arroyo Grande.

Pepper Creek Family Farm’s Pico de Gallo

10 medium tomatoes, cored and diced

1 small red and 1 small white onion, diced

1 bunch fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

3 cloves crushed/chopped garlic

Juice of 1 to 2 limes

1/8 teaspoon cumin

2 jalapeños, finely chopped, one without seeds and one with seeds

A few shakes of California garlic salt

Mix all ingredients together and enjoy!

—Courtesy of Jessica Newell, Pepper Creek Family Farms