Mt. Moriah Farms: The family farm with character

By Michelle Immel

A seven year old’s black rain boots thump down a newly paved road, as the youngest of the Smit family welcomes us to Mt. Moriah Farms, a 16-acre plot of pristine farmland, that’s home to family tradition and a vibrant collection of fresh fruit.

With two daughters and two sons between the ages of 6 and 11 years old, Steve and Robin Smit have their work cut out for them: picking, packing, shipping and selling over 50 varieties of fruit across California, assisted by their mini-farmhands and two furry canine companions.

“We do a lot of work together” Smit said. “The kids help me plant trees. Jonah—the 9 year old—helps me do irrigation. They roll out hose for me and go around on the tractor with me. When we spray, we spray organic fungicides which are harmless, so they help me out with that, too.”

Traveling from Lodi to Long Beach, Sacramento to San Diego and nearly everywhere in-between, Steve Smit has a 17-year history of embracing the farmers market lifestyle. Known for his juicy apples, plump cherries, and charismatic personality, Steve brings a distinctly good-natured humor, a strong sense of family, and a dedication to quality that distinguishes his business as a stand-out to his loyal customers across the state.

Steve grew up on a dairy farm only five miles down the road from Mt. Moriah, where he learned firsthand what it takes to run a profitable farm. After graduating high school, Steve “wandered around California in his little white Honda” for a few years before deciding to apply his knowledge, until the age of twenty-three, when he began an apple selling business with his father.

“The first year my dad and I grew apples. We went to a packing shed and made zero money, and realized we were in trouble,” he said. “Then one day, I was driving down highway 99, and I had the inspiration to just start over, and move to San Diego.”

With a change of heart and an open mind, Steve moved his business south, and traded in his old work boots for a new pair of sandals. Business quickly picked up, and within his first year, Steve was able to set up his own warehouse in south Orange County.

“I had a warehouse in San Clemente by all the surfboard shapers” he said, recounting the early years of his business. “These trucks would drive up with pallets of fruit, and the guys would come out all dusty from the sanders, so I’d give them a pluot or something, and they’d say, ‘Dude! I’ll hook you up!’ and give me a surfboard for a case of fruit.”
Since then, Steve’s knack for sales and charming personality have kept his business growing. Customers from all over the state recognize him in his baseball cap and fruit-stained board shorts. Clearly, Steve Smit is not your average farmer. Whether he’s tending the farm with his family or making friends with surfer bums and college students, Steve loves what he does, and his secret is simple.

“The secret really is relating to people” he explains. “Have a good product, and treat people right. You’ve got to have character, and love people. When I’m out here doing my thing, it’s where I’m supposed to be. And I know that.”