Wednesday, May 07, 2008

More News You Can Lose....

News Flash #4: Apple Theft Justice

From The Monterey County Herald:

C.V. woman prevails over Earthbound

Company must pay six figures, transplant orchard

By VIRGINIA HENNESSEY
Herald Salinas Bureau

Article Last Updated: 05/07/2008 01:35:15 AM PDT

Priscilla Higuera sued Earthbound Farms for allegedly sneaking onto her property and taking cuttings from a rare apple tree.

Earthbound Farms is not admitting wrongdoing, but come November workers will bare the roots of the company's notorious pink apple trees and truck them off the property.

The organic farm giant has settled a lawsuit brought by a Carmel Valley woman who accused Earthbound's research director of sneaking onto her Tassajara Road property and taking clippings from her rare apple tree to propagate a profitable orchard.

As part of the settlement, Priscilla Higuera will receive what her attorney described as a six-figure cash settlement to compensate her for the profit Earthbound made from her apple-tree cuttings.

More important, said Carmel attorney Gerald Barron, the company and its parent, Natural Selection Foods, agreed to turn over its entire fall harvest to Higuera, then carefully uproot the 150 trees so they can be transplanted to a location of her choosing.

Michael Korda, attorney for Earthbound Farms and Natural Selection, did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

Higuera brought suit in January 2007 alleging that she came home one day in 2001 to find someone had hacked clippings from her 75-year-old apple tree, which produces a rare variety of pink-fleshed fruit. It was not until October 2006 that she saw Mark Marino of Earthbound Farms quoted in a local newspaper about how he had heard of a rare pink apple tree in Carmel Valley and sleuthed it out to start a new orchard.

Higuera maintained the tree came from Europe 75 to 80 years ago and was a forbearer of the Pink Pearl apple, though that claim has been questioned by other apple aficionados.

Earthbound had been selling the fruit to upscale local restaurants, including Sierra Mar at the Post Ranch Inn and Marinus at the Bernardus Lodge.

While he originally denied the allegation to sheriff's deputies, Marino later admitted his actions in a deposition for the lawsuit, said Barron.

The case was set to go to trial Monday.

Instead, Earthbound has agreed to pick this year's harvest of the Carmel Valley Road orchard for Higuera, then uproot the trees in a condition conducive for transplanting and deliver them to the location of Higuera's choice.

Barron said she will be free to have some of the trees planted on her property and sell or give away the others. He said a portion of her cash settlement, which he declined to disclose, would go to charity. He estimated the trees could produce more than 5,500 pounds of apples.

Natural Selection agreed that it will never transfer any cuttings from the tree to any other party and will not attempt to clone it on its own.

While Natural Selection and Earthbound Farms admitted no wrongdoing, he said, Higuera is pleased with the outcome.

"Come November or December, when you see 150 to 200 trees being uprooted and prepared for transplanting," said Barron, "a picture's worth a thousand words."

Priscilla lives at the corner of Tassajara Road and Carmel Valley Road on the old Bloomquist Ranch.

Crazy Roger....my dishwasher at John Gardiner's Tennis Ranch back in the day.....had been the heir to the Bloomquist Ranch. He posted up there in the late 70's and befriended old man Bloomquist before he died, and got the property. Roger wasn't a gold-digger....he actually cared for the old coot, and probably deserved the piece.

The Ranch is a gorgeous property, right at the top of the Ardilles Grade. Who knows who settled it originally....but as in all things on the Arroyo Seco side of the Ardilles, I suspect Swiss-Italians.

Roger was a nut-ball. He had been a missionary in the Amazon with his wife in the sixties.....which experience probably led to his mental and spiritual undoing. There were natural pharmaceuticals involved, you see. His wife went on to drop him like a bad habit and become an IT exec with piles of dough. Roger became an impoverished ranch owner.......and my dishwasher.

Roger was not without his charms, though. The Tennis Ranch at this time was like some bizarre LSD dream for me. I had worked there for years, and was eventually fired 17 times by the owner. I was rehired 16 times, though. They got me started in the catering business, though.....and I am undyingly grateful.

By time of the Roger era, I was subbing in on Tuesday and Wednesday dinners at the Tennis Ranch. The menus on any given day had not changed in decades. Wednesday was roast rib eye, squash casserole, mushroom soufflee, scalloped potatoes, Caesar salad.....and apricot soufflee with ice cream sauce. I could....and still can.....do it in my sleep.

The LSD part comes in when the richest and most powerful of the richest and most powerful of the late 70's and early 80's were our clientele.....and they behaved.....badly. Our petty revenges on the weirdness they beat us with ran to things like turning the batteries upside down in the feathered dildos of the Texan Democratic vice presidential candidate, rifling Vicodin from the giant jars of the Magnavox guy, "accidentally" tripping and crashing into the pool with the blueberry cobbler, aiding and abetting the Dom Perignon-fueled, five-hour Gloria Gaynor- accompanied grope of someone else's wife by the Prudential Board Chairman......

"I will survive........"

Five hours of replaying a 45 RPM.....over and over. And cracking bottles. The next morning, as he signed his bill......with his wife vainly trying to look over his shoulder.....he said to me: "Michael....always keep your weight on your downhill Gucci....."

The scary, sad and no less weird stuff was things like accompanying the wife of Senator Percy of Illinois back to her room four times a day and searching in all the closets and under all the beds before she could feel safe (her daughter had been kidnapped and murdered by a nut).

And trying to bring her back to Earth after a bat got in the room.....

Not normal.

Anyway, Roger would arrive at work with a pouch full of amusements. Percodan, psilocybin mushrooms, thai sticks, cocaine.....It helped. I distinctly remember losing the ability to speak the English language on the buffet with a group of women from Texas one Wednesday.....but the soufflees were perfect. And they didn't notice. They were used to the little people not being good communicators. Just so we took instruction well.....who cares?

Roger also had a stash of religious chiles still left from the Amazon. Sacred chiles, really. The whole missionary thing did not work well out for Roger down there. Compared to the indigenous gods.....Jesus was basically a polyesther dressed, high-school, network-marketing rep for Amway on the doorstep of your grass hut.

Get the fuck out of here with your wine and water. Try some ayahuasca.....and some religious chiles.

The chiles were a mix. They were arranged in a way that dipping your finger in the chiles and licking it started you on a journey: first the tip of your tongue would light up, then the sides, your palate, you would exhale fire next.....The chiles worked their way down your mouth, esophagus.....through your stomach, your intestines......and yes, the very last part of the chain as well. Holy Shit!

The best steak I ever cooked was seasoned with Camargue salt and religious chiles. I can still taste it.

The most humorous ER call I ever went on was when Roger sneezed while chopping chiles into Camargue salt.....and got them in his eyes.

Anyway.....it did not end well for Roger. Decades after the Tennis Ranch he applied for a job with us at Moveable. While I was waiting for business to pop up where I could use him, he shot himself with a pistol in his truck at the foot (the non-Swiss/Italian side) of Ardilles Grade.

The Ranch wound up with Priscilla.

Meanwhile, among Roger's whack-job friends was Andrew Weil. Don't ask me how....it had something to do with Tassajara, where Roger and I both worked and hung out. If you don't know who Andrew Weil is....go and shoot yourself like Roger. (He will be Surgeon-General under Barack if there is any justice in the world). Andrew knew the Bloomquist place, and his favorite part was this funky old apple tree the pink apples.

Not to mention the religious chiles.....and I have no direct knowledge of the other enticements of Roger's hospitality and Andrew.

Some years after Roger's demise, Andrew came through town and gave a seminar attended by the same Mark from Earthbound in the article. Andrew talked about the apples in a mystic way.

Mark was intrigued.......did some detective work......and tracked the tree down.

Mark wanted to spread the word and the fruit.....but Priscilla is a bitter old lesbian and not into it.

Mark snuck in and stole the fruitwood anyway.

The only reason Priscilla noticed was that she called in two gardening experts friends of mine to fix up the old tree. They tried to talk her into starting her own orchard with cuttings, but she demurred. Too much trouble.

When it came out that Earthbound had cuttings from Roger's tree.....Priscilla sued. You can see that she won.

I expected the local lesbian gardening clique to be rejoicing in the decision of the small landowner against the billionaire mega-corporation.

Nope.

"Fruitwood is always freely available to anyone who can propagate it. The better the tree, the freer you are with cuttings. We tried to talk Priss into starting her own orchard, but she was too lazy. I think what she did is terrible. That tree is a gift to the planet, and everyone should be able to share. Priss looked at the glass and saw it was half empty....and sued. She should have realized it is half-full, and developed her own trees."

My gardening informant is also a recovering chef.

"It is like recipes. Everyone has stolen your wild rice salad recipe. Every caterer in Monterey uses it. Are you bitter? Are you suing? No.....your recipe raised the bar, and you moved on, and everyone is better off for you having invented it."

"I feel bad about the whole thing. Earthbound shouldn't have stolen the cuttings.....but they shouldn't have had to. They had to pay big money......but Priss is going to being paying big karma some day......."

I stole the wild rice recipe from a guy in Pike's Place Market in Seattle..........

I served apricot soufflee with ice cream sauce on Friday night at Cypress Point.

I wonder if Priss will give us some cuttings.......

2 Comments:

Blogger Brian Isaeff said...

Bravo, excellent post! I loved the background to this "Headline" story.

Brian

6:54 AM  
Blogger stephanie said...

Cachagua Store artical sounds like pure red neck jealously to me. If you look at Pricilla's property you can see she is not lazy. If you know her you would know she gave alot of cuttings away to people before Earthbound snuck in and stole the cuttings. Your two friends who told you she will have bad karma also are two lesibans who will have bad karma one day for talking behind Pricilla's back because of jealousy.

2:57 PM  

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