(July 26) While Monterey County grower-shippers experience overproduction and low prices of iceberg, romaine and other leafy greens, it’s an entirely different story on Babe’ Farms 1,400 acres in the Santa Maria Valley.

“We’re totally different than what goes on in Salinas because we grow 80 different items,” said Ande Manos, sales associate for the family-owned business. “We’re specialty as compared to the larger, conventional growers. We’re in an entirely different niche.”

With such diversity in products, a number of which are experimental, the ups and downs of the leafy green markets don’t affect Babe’ Farms as dramatically, Manos said.

The diversity also allows it to dabble in unique produce and increase production of organic spring mix by 60%, even though the category represents only 10% of its entire product line.

“The weather has been generous to us and production has been very good on all of our items, especially the leafy greens,” she said. “Right now, a lot of our baby head lettuces are in high demand.”

Manos said Babe’ Farms is always trying to come up with creative alternative salads for fine-dining chefs.

“We’ve got a lot of different components to make specialty salad blends,” she said.

She said two of the most recent blends are its Spicy Greens salad, featuring mizuna, arugula, red and green frilly mustard and Greek cress, which it launched in spring; and its Purple Rain blend that contains spinach and red orach, debuting this summer.

The new blends will be available year-round and are hand-harvested to ensure freshness.

“We get feedback from chefs who obviously are bored with spring mix, so they give us ideas on components they would like to see and we have the capabilities to grow them,” she said. “We also do some of our own testing in product development and then send out limited samples.”