Califonia Bountiful

An ear for music

March/April 2019 California Bountiful magazine

Farm family's bounty proves popular at Coachella

The corn Celeste Alonzo's family plants each winter is ready for harvest just in time to sell at the Coachella and Stagecoach music festivals in the spring. Photo courtesy of Marlene Nunez

One of the biggest hitmakers at the renowned Coachella music festival in recent years has been Junior Enterprises of Thermal.

They don't make any music, but they do make a mean baked potato. And their sweet corn has been a chart-topper for years at the two-weekend festival of rock, dance, hip-hop and electronic music, as well as at Stagecoach, the one-weekend country music festival preceding it.

How big of a hit?

"During peak hours, we had Stagecoach customers waiting up to 45 minutes to buy corn," said Celeste Alonzo, daughter of farm founder Luis Alonzo Jr. "We even have some customers who go all three days to buy corn."

The back-to-back festivals take place every April, which is around the same time the family is harvesting corn and potatoes on their Coachella Valley farm. So they figured, why not sell the fresh produce to festival-goers?

Their menu of grilled corn, baked potatoes and chicken quesadillas proved so popular, they've been invited back every year since 2010. Corn is grilled with the husk on, Alonzo said, and can be served plain; Mexican style with mayonnaise, parmesan and butter; or with any one of the three toppings. Baked potatoes come with butter, sour cream, chives and bacon as options.

Vidal Mendoza grills the corn before it's garnished with the customers' choice of toppings. Photo courtesy of Celeste Alonzo

Alonzo said her father plants corn around mid-December so it will be ready for the festivals. The family also grows bell peppers, green beans and squash. Junior Enterprises promotes the farm-to-festival bona fides of its food.

"We make sure to tell everyone they are getting fresh sweet corn from the valley," Alonzo said. "My dad has his workers pick the boxes every morning daily to make sure we are giving our customers the best product we have."

Customers have responded by buying more corn each year.

"Sales have been steadily increasing," Alonzo said. "We had a couple who said that it's one of the things they look forward to when they go to Stagecoach, and that made me very happy."

Like their farm, the festival food operation is a family enterprise, with both of Alonzo's parents and her two brothers pitching in. It takes about 20 people total to staff the stand.

Participating in the festival is one of the ways the three-generation family farm seeks to ensure an enduring future, said Alonzo, who serves as office manager.

"My grandpa came here from Mexico, came to Coachella Valley, and he started farming," she said. "My dad followed him, learned from him, and we're following in my dad's footsteps and learning from him."

Alonzo remembers going out to visit the ranch with her father and her twin brother, Luis III, when they were little. She said she and her brothers plan to take over the company when their father retires.

"I can see the three of us being here, working and trying to continue what my dad started," she said.

That's almost certainly music to Dad's ears—not to mention the legions of the farm's hungry fans.

Kevin Hecteman

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