You are here

Corona Farms Q & A

Tomatoes for Neela written by Padma Lakshmi and illustrated by Juana Martinez-NealPages from Tomatoes for Neela with illustrations of workers picking tomatoes in the fields

Picture books do well to celebrate the importance of family while emphasizing traditions of food in cultural cuisine. To make dishes like the variety of sweet or spicy Latinx tamales, the African Black-eyed Peas & Hoghead Cheese, and even Neela's Tomato Chutney in Tomatoes for Neela, the ingredients all come from somewhere, picked by people who make farm-to-table possible. Tomatoes for Neela by Padma Lakshmi, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal, flawlessly incorporates an homage to the farmworkers who make these family food traditions possible. With stunningly beautiful art & respectful storytelling, Tomatoes for Neela sheds light on the "long hours in the sun," the "heavy buckets of tomatoes & other produce," and the exposure to "harsh chemicals that help grow large amounts of fruits and vegetables" that farm workers endure every single day. The book also cameos civil rights activists Dolores Huerta & Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers movement for basic rights of farmworkers and the organizations in place today that work to help migrant and seasonal farmworkers "improve their working conditions, understand their rights & protections, & further immigration reform." Neela's whole world of cooking Paati's Tomato Sauce & her own chutney recipe with her Amma has always been preceded by the labor of the farmworkers. Tomatoes for Neela is Neela's story of cooking with her mother with a respectful thanks to the farmworkers who are the essential backbone of agriculture.

Cellar Door Bookstore staff have a favorite farmer's market in Riverside, Corona Farms. A family-owned business since 2005, Corona Farms never disappoints with their daily freshly picked produce and focus on the true aromatic, mouthwatering flavor of each fruit & vegetable above all else. Our bookseller, Andrea, was elated to have had the opportunity for an in-depth conversation about Corona Farms with lead farmworker, Juan.

Corona Farms 

Located at 2701-2805 Madison St, Riverside, CA 92504 

Hours: 9am-5pm Mon-Sat

            9am-4pm Sunday

Two young women selling strawberries in the Corona Farms tent with rows of strawberry containers in front of themThree of Corona Farms' workers standing in the Corona Farms fields with clear blue sky behind them

Andrea’s Interview Q & A with Juan conducted in Spanish with English translation:

How long has Corona Farms been running?

Corona Farms has been running since 2005, coming up on 17 years. A long time.

Por cuanto tiempo Corona Farms ha estado creciendo vegetales y frutas? 

Corona Farms ha estado desde el 2005, que viene 17 años. Mucho tiempo.

What did you grow when you first started?

The most we grew and matured when we first started were tomatoes and strawberries. Those two are the most important.

Que cosechó Corona Farms cuando empezaron?

Lo que más cosechamos nosotros y veneciedo son tomates y fresas. Esos dos es lo más importante. 


Is this the first generation of farmers or has your family been farming in the past?

It's the first. The first generation. Just me and my father. 

Esta es la primera generación que estado cosechando? O su familia estaba cosechando antes?

Es la primera. La Primera generación. Solo yo y mi papá.


How many acres?

This farm has 30 acres. All completed.

Cuántos acres tiene esta granja?

Esta granja tiene 30 acres. Todo completo. 


What sprays/pesticides/herbicides do you use? 

I use some pesticides. I like to use the pesticides that are completely organic and rarely do I use another pesticide but when I do it's extremely low in chemical content. We usually use the organic kind, but normally we don't use much if we even use pesticides at all. 

Cuales pesticidas o herbicidas usan aquí en Corona Farms?

Uso unos pesticidas. Me gusta usar unos que son orgánicos y a veces uso otro pero es muy bajo de cemico. Pero más el orgánico. Pero normal no echamos mucho si usamos pesticidas.


  • Andrea: Yes, I can tell because I see all of those butterflies over there.

                  Si, porque miro las mariposas allá.

          Juan: Exactly, we would never kill the butterflies nor the bees because that's terrible. For the bees too. We like to grow things naturally. There are a lot of things you can grow naturally (pesticide-free). The only laborious things to not grow completely naturally (pesticide-free) are the brussel sprouts, the tomatoes, and the strawberries because they get the little worms. However, that's why there is the organic pesticide that doesn't kill all of them, but 50%-70% of them. We also use fertilizer so the plant can grow with strength.

          Si, nunca vamos a matar las mariposas ni las abejas porque eso es malísimo. Para las abejas también. Y nos gusta crecer lo más natural. Ay muchas cosas que puedes crecer naturales. Lo único mas trabajoso de no crecer es como el Brussel Sprout o los tomates y las fresas porque esas agarran los gusanitos. Pero para eso ay un pesticidas orgánico que los matan, no todos, pero 50%-70% of them. Usamos fertilizante para que la planta pueda crecer con fuerza. 


  • Andrea: That's great because we need the bees and pollinators.

                  Eso es muy bueno porque necesitamos abejas. 

          Juan: Yes, we need to take care of them because if there are no bees, there is no food. 

          Si, tenemos que cuidar las porque si no hay abejas, no hay comida. 


I've been here when the haul for the day sold out. Does this mean you only sell what you pick that same day?

Yes. We only cut what we will need to sell here for the day. We don't cut a whole lot so that there isn't much leftover at the end of the day. That way we can cut completely new produce the next day and everything is better fresh. 

He estado aquí cuando ya terminado a vender todo. Eso quiere decir que solamente venden lo que se pizcó del día? 

Si. Se que vamos cortando lo que vamos necesitando para vender aquí. Ya no cortamos mucho porque sobre solo poquito para otro día volver a cortar todo nuevo y todo esta mejor. 


How many different types of fruits and vegetables do you grow?

I think we have more than twenty at the present moment. As the time of year changes, there will be different vegetables. Vegetables of the heat. Vegetables of the cold.

Cuantos diferentes typos de frutas y vegetales venden?

Yo creo que son más de veinte ahorita. Porque como va cambiando el tiempo, va hacer diferente verdura. Verdura de calor. Verdura de frío.  


What items are coming soon for the fall?

"For the fall" means during the end of the year, right? Right now I'm planting the broccoli, cauliflower, celery, and the cabbages are maturing. Also, the radishes, cilantro...because there's a lot that grows in the heat as well as the cold. Like the kale, radishes, cilantro, parsley. Those grow all year round, but the broccoli, the cauliflower, the romanesco, and the lettuces grow in the cold.

Cuales frutas y vegetales vienen para otoño? 

“Otoño” quiere decir el fin del año, verdad? Como ahorita ya estoy plantando el brócoli, cauliflower, celery, y los que veneciendo los repollos, y también los rábanos, cilantro. Porque hay mucho que lo crecer con el calor y también con lo frío. Como ese kale, rábanos, cilantro, parsley. Eso crece todo el año. Pero el brócoli, el cauliflower, y el romanesco y las lechugas que crecen en el frío. 


How would you describe the impact of buying locally grown produce instead of at the grocery store? 

Those are immensely different because when you buy what is growing here from farmers the flavor of the vegetable is much better. At the grocery store, that vegetable already has a lot of days sitting there in the store since being picked. It no longer has flavor or it's just very different. There are a lot of people who do not know that because they have never eaten things freshly cut from growing. Those people should learn a little bit a about (farm to table) because is you buy a tomato from here, you'll see it is exponentially better. If you buy a tomato from the grocery store, you won't taste much, mostly water, why? Because the plant was not grown to maturity then freshly cut. There is a lot about this process that people don't know, that's why a lot of people say, "Oh, I don't like tomatoes," or "I don't like strawberries," because those that are in the grocery store do not come out good. However, when they taste produce from here, their mentality changes. For a lot of people. That's the biggest difference of buying fresh than buying from the grocery store.

Como describiría el impacto de comprar frutas y vegetales de un mercado de agricultores local en ves de una tienda regular de comida? 

Eso es mucho mucho muy diferente. Porque cuando compras aquí lo que veneciendo del agricultores son el sabor de la verdura es más bueno. Y el del mercado, de veneciendo la tienda, esa verdura ya tiene muchos días en la tienda. Ya no tiene sabor. Ósea ya es muy diferente. Hay muchas personas que no saben eso porque nunca han comido cosas que son creciente y cortados y ellos deben de aprender un poco de eso porque si tu compras un tomate aquí, te vas aver muy bueno. Vas y compras un tomate al la tienda, no se aver nada, solo es agua, porque? Porque no esta cortado madurado la planta. Y hay muchas cosas que la gente no saben, por eso muchos personas son como, "o, no me gusta los tomates," o "no me gustan los fresas" porque lo qué hay en la tienda no sale bueno. Pero cuando prueban aquí, su mentalidad cambia. De mucha gente. Eso es la gran diferencia de comprar fresco y comprar de la tienda.

  • Andrea: People are like, "I don't like it," but they haven't even really tried it.

                         Gente son como, "no me gusta," pero no han probado.

          Juan: Yes, they haven't tried it. Therefore, you say to the person, "Try this one from the farm," and they say, "Oh no, because I don't like it," but how do you know if you've never actually tasted a fresh one? Right?

                     No has probado, no sabes. Illuego tu dices a la persona, "prueba lo," y dicen, "o no, porque no me gustan," y como sabes si no te gusta si no lo pruebas? Verdad?

  • Andrea: "I just picked it!"

                      "Lo que pizce ahorita!"

           Juan: Yes! Because we have many clients here that say, "my husband or my wife didn't eat tomatoes but when they tasted them from here they became so happy." Of course, because they had never tasted a good tomato until they tired ours. There is a big difference.

                      Si! Porque tiene muchos clientes aquí que dicen "o mi esposo/mi esposa no comían tomatoes pero cuando probo los tuyos ya están felices." Pues si, porque no habían probar tomate bueno. Hay mucha diferencia.

What would you say to those who have never been to Corona Farms?

Well, I would recommend that they come and try the vegetables from here at Corona Farms because all who come here will leave happy and content. Everyone who comes to try us out leave happy and content. Everything is much better than the stores. That way, they would support the farmers too. People would eat better food and we would be very happy. Everything works together, everything is interconnected. But yes, I would recommend that people come to try the matured vegetables "freshly picked" like they say. (Laughs)

Que dicieras a ellos quien nunca han venido a Corona Farms?

Pos que le recomiendo que vengan a probar las verduras de aquí de Corona Farms porque todo lo que vengan, se v air feliz y contento. Todos lo que vengan a probar van a ir felices y contentos. Porque todo esta más bueno y así apoyarían la agricultor también. Ellos comerían mejor y nosotros también estaríamos mas felices. Y se trabaja todos en conjunto, todos juntos. Pero si los recomiendo que vengan a probar aquí lo que veneciendo las verduras "freshly picked" como dicen. (Laughs)


As customers of Corona Farms who shop there regularly, we can wholeheartedly say you should skip your Ralph's/Stater Bros/Whole Foods grocery run & opt for the freshest, tastiest produce possible at Corona Farms. You can drive down Victoria and see their 30 acres actively growing the next batch of ingredients for your Sunday dinner right now.

Staff Pick Badge
Tomatoes for Neela By Padma Lakshmi, Juana Martinez-Neal (Illustrator) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593202708
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Viking Books for Young Readers - August 31st, 2021