Catholic San Francisco


(Photo by Valerie Schmalz/Catholic San Francisco)

Co-op members Sofia Mendoza, Marcella Jasso and Ernest Jasso at Nano Farms plot at the seminary. 

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Catholic co-op selling farm-fresh produce
May 24th, 2016
By Valerie Schmalz

The strawberries are sweet and crisp with a hint of tartness and the squash blooms, kale and lettuce are just as tasty.

Just a few miles from San Francisco, NanoFarms – a Catholic workers’ co-op–is open for business, offering boxes of freshly picked sustainably grown and pesticide-free vegetables and fruit for delivery in San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties from May to December.

The produce comes “from our field to your home,” says Jesuit Father George Schultze, one of the founders of NanoFarms. Using organic fertilizer, the Catholic cooperative is growing 21 different kinds of vegetables, herbs, and fruits on the spacious grounds of St. Patrick’s Seminary & University.

The boxes cost $30 a week and contain between 11 and 14 vegetables, fruits and herbs each week, said Ernesto Jasso, one of the members of the co-op, who with his wife Marcella is a parishioner of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in East Palo Alto.

“I believe very sincerely in the fact the quality of our food in the markets is absolutely loaded with things you don’t want,” said Marcia Smith, who shared a weekly produce box with her friend last year. The box was “good food and it was fresh and it was on time,” the Church of the Nativity parishioner said.

The co-op, which started operations in 2014, hopes to add 100 new customers during June, Jasso said. Deliveries can be made to drop off points, such as a parish, business or to individual homes. Parishes connected so far with NanoFarms include Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. Pius in Redwood City, St. Charles, San Carlos, St. Raymond in Menlo Park, and St. Francis of Assisi in East Palo Alto.

Boxes of vegetables and fruit are already being delivered to customers in San Francisco, Los Altos, Redwood City and Menlo Park.

NanoFarms is a profit-based workers cooperative, designed along the lines of a very successful Spanish workers cooperative, Mondragon Cooperative established by a Catholic priest, Jose Maria Arizmendiarrieta, in the Basque country in Spain in 1956, Father Schultze said. Today Mondragon is a cooperative that has 147 companies employing 80,000 workers.

NanoFarms is an effort to apply the Catholic social justice and economic principles of distributism — as advocated by Catholic thinkers G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc in the early 20th century — to modern-day income disparity, said Father Lawrence Goode, the pastor at St. Francis. Distributism places the family at the center and includes the idea of co-ops where workers own the means of production and share in the profits within the framework of a capitalist economic system. It comes out of Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical “Rerum Novarum” (“On Capital and Labor”), released in 1891 in response to the inhumanity of unregulated 19th-century capitalism, the advent of socialism and atheistic Marxism and the rise of trade unions. The encyclical is the foundation of modern Catholic social justice teaching.

Its ideas are also compatible with the philosophy of Catholic Worker House co-founders Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day, who believed in the importance of farming and “warned against large, absolute institutional power and believed that small enterprises, privately owned are an answer to institutional power,” Father Schultze said.

Guadalupe Associates/Ignatius Press founder Jesuit Father Joseph Fessio, Father Schultze and Father Goode brainstormed together to create NanoFarms two years ago and Guadalupe Associates continues to financially back the venture. The seminary and Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone support NanoFarms with use of the seminary grounds although NanoFarms expects it will expand its land use eventually beyond the seminary.

To order call (650) 817-8801, email to or go to to sign up for a box.

From May 26, 2016 issue of Catholic San Francisco.


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