For Hank Wetzel, his love for this area began at seven, when his parents sent him from their Southern California, Palos Verdes home to Plantation Farm Camp in Cazadero for three weeks. Every summer for five years he recalls the joy of hiking, horseback riding, swimming, and helping with animal and farm chores. The journey to and from the camp was intense; involving bus rides up the coast and over Meyers Grade, but for him it was always worth it.

Even more thrilling was when his parents decided to partner with old friends and buy a piece of property on Highway 128 in 1962, when he was twelve. Prior to that it had been owned by the Alexanders, the family for which the valley is named. The 80 acres included an old adobe hacienda, a wooden house, and many heritage fruit trees. It had been a cattle ranch, but the Wetzels turned it into a vineyard, as well as painstakingly restoring all the structures. They also cultivated and expanded upon all the original landscaping. Hank fondly remembers his mother's spectacular vegetable garden.

With his wife Linda, Hank started Alexander Valley Vineyards in 1975, eleven years after his parents planted their first vines. The first few years were challenging, but hard work and financial sacrifice paid off. Currently the Wetzels have 600 acres in Alexander Valley, 300 of them planted in vineyard.

But Hank's passion for growing vegetables and fruit never waned. He built up his mother's garden, and planted other parts of the farm, eventually planting 3-4 acres in various locations on the property. They even plant between grapevine rows. Alexander Valley Farms began selling at the Healdsburg Market seven years ago, after several years of casual farming.

Javier Patino, the person you'll see most often at the market, began working for the Wetzels, nineteen years ago. At seventeen he came across the border from Central Mexico by himself, and found work in Oregon until he was hired by AVV, through his brothers who were working there. He started as a vineyard worker, and now he's the farm manager.

Katie Murphy, Hank's sister, is an important person in this family's story. She was five when her parents bought "the ranch," as they called it. They initially spent some holidays and several weeks in the summer there, exploring and adventuring while her parents worked on endless projects. Many locals spoke Italian in those days, she recalls.

She's been involved with AVV since its inception, retiring from the position of sales manager in 2001, but continuing to work as wine ambassador for the company.

Katie's played a major part in the creation and running of FRIENDS OF THE HEALDSBURG FARMERS' MARKET, the 501C-3 Non-Profit which fundraises for our market. Begun in 2014, working in conjunction with Mary Kelley, the market manager at that point, they formed the non-profit to be able to apply for grants and solicit donations to support education and promotion of the market. Their message has always been"seasonal, local, fresh." Katie and Mary, plus several other wonderful Friends, have been a huge help in keeping our market thriving.

Alexander Valley Farms will have their booth filled with goodies this season. Their classic lettuces. artichokes, tomatoes, corn, onions, squash, favas, lemons and asparagus will all be there, not to mention their olive oil and excellent wines.They're experimenting with Brussels sprouts and three kinds of cabbages this season as well.

Experimenting is what it's all about for Hank, Javier, and Junior Macias, another essential farm employee who's been with the family his whole life. All of them revel in the trial and error aspect of farming, and hope that someday actually making a profit off their endeavors will be the icing on their delicious, fresh and healthy cake.