Written by Susie Franklin Roeser
Photos courtesy of Fred Hoffman
When one thinks of gardening, Hollywood probably isn’t the first place that comes to mind. In the case of local garden guru, Fred Hoffman (A.K.A. Farmer Fred to Northern California locals) this is exactly where he began his journey to become a Master Gardener extraordinaire.
Fred is the son of a farmer’s daughter. He was born and raised in the city of North Hollywood, CA, where tomatoes are a perennial crop! Fred’s career gardening began with the unassuming chore of picking hornworms off the tomato plants growing in the backyard. Other early gardening experience included fertilizing the rose garden with locally sourced dog manure. At the age of nine, Fred began to branch out from strictly gardening to landscape maintenance (mowing lawns in his neighborhood to earn spending money).
Summers spent at Uncle Hubert and Aunt Minnie's farm near Beach, North Dakota provided even more agriculture opportunities. Consequently, Fred continued to build his knowledge for the rest of his career.
In college, Fred received a degree in Broadcast Journalism. 1973 was the year he moved to Northern California—working as a radio DJ in Stockton, Modesto, and Sacramento.
The 80’s were the start of Fred’s radio garden segments on KRAK and KGNR. In 1982, Fred became a certified Sacramento County Master Gardener through the University of California, adding a degree in Horticulture in 1988.
In 1989, Fred and his wife Jeanne moved to 10 acres of pastureland near Herald, in southeastern Sacramento County. Now, Fred had the space to experiment with growing everything that his garden show listeners would call in and complain about. “I wanted to feel their pain,” he explains. Fred & Jeanne called this location “home” for the next 27 years.
Beginning in 1991, Fred took up writing garden columns for the Lodi News Sentinel, which has run weekly ever since. Fred claimed the additional roles of host and producer of “Get Growing” on KSTE (the day the station signed on the air, in the fall of 1992). He added the KFBK Garden Show to his on-air duties in 2000. In 2015, he started up the KSTE Farm Hour, an agricultural news show for Northern California farmers.
As you can see, Fred has accumulated and shared a wealth of gardening knowledge over the years. He’s accrued roughly 10,000 Master Gardener volunteer hours alone! One gardening topic that is especially close to his heart (both figuratively and literally) is the selection, care and keeping of a “Heart Healthy” garden.
In March 2012, Fred was diagnosed with four cholesterol-jammed heart arteries. At the same time, he was told he had full-blown Type 2 Diabetes. The surgery went well and the long road to healing from heart disease and diabetes began. Now, thanks to regular exercise and a healthier diet, Fred has lost over 60 pounds; his arteries remain cholesterol-free, his blood sugar levels are back to normal and he no longer needs to take any prescription medications for either of these ailments - with his doctors' blessings, of course. Part of the secret? Growing, and eating, heart-healthy fruits and vegetables, loaded with fiber such as: artichokes, blueberries, apricots, shell beans and green peas. Fred shares his first-hand knowledge about “Heart Healthy” gardening on his blog:
Perusing these pictures, does Farmer Fred seem to “look familiar?” Quite possibly you may have seen him on television—which seems ironically fitting for the boy from Hollywood! Fred has been featured on HGTV, and on DIY Network’s "Gardening by the Yard” and “The Dirt on Gardening” as well as the PBS show "California Heartland”. If not on T.V., you might have spied him out and about on his bike. An avid cyclist, Fred rides over 100 miles a week!
You might be wondering, “With all of this gardening experience under his belt, what will be Fred Hoffman’s next gardening foray?” Now a resident of Folsom, he has a greenhouse just waiting to be assembled so he can enjoy nurturing plants from seed to harvest… to the compost pile year-round, regardless of what kinds of storms Mother Nature might send his way.
Inspired by Farmer Fred to try growing
something of your own?
You’re in luck! Fred has a myriad of resources in a variety of
user-friendly formats to help you along every step of the way
"KFBK Garden Show", 93.1 FM/1530 AM KFBK-Sacramento - Sun., 8-10am
"Get Growing with Farmer Fred", Talk650-KSTE Sacramento - Sun., 10am-Noon
Both shows are available via the i Heart Radio App
as well as podcasts of the programs.
The KSTE Farm Hour, Noon-1pm on Sundays
Lodi News-Sentinel; Garden Column
Farmer Fred website: http://farmerfred.com -which includes a month
by month calendar of what vegetables to plant when
Daily Garden tips and more on Twitter
Facebook: Get Growing with Farmer Fred
Farmer Fred Garden Videos on YouTube
Susie Franklin Roeser is the owner & full time employee of Gifts From The Heart Of Elk Grove. Daughter, Sister, Wife, Mom x2, Carpool Minivan driver, 4-H Leader and lover of all things creative.
This story first appeared in the Ardent
for Life Late Summer 2019 issue.