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Conversations with the Inspiring Anne Manassero

Today we’d like to introduce you to Anne Manassero.

Anne, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
It was destiny! My husband and I were introduced by friends 15 years ago. Little did I know, at our first meeting that I would soon be marrying my soul mate. I know it sounds corny but we are truly kindred spirits. Dan is an amazing, conscientious farmer dedicated to growing the most delicious and healthy produce possible. I grew up going to farmer’s markets with my grandmother in Abilene, Texas (center of the dust bowl, back in the day). My grandmother LOVED going to shop for in the farmer’s market for whatever was local and fresh. As you might imagine, the pickings were small in the middle of the dust bowl! I’m sure my grandmother is looking down on me with great pride that I’m married to a farmer who can grow just about anything he wants to plant in our rich California soil. My passion is interior and exterior design and retail. Although it was never planned, Dan and I have created the most unique urban farm/gift shop/special event venue in Orange County.

Our Irvine Market is truly a labor of love. It is our largest and newest location. The venue has grown out of listening to our customers and incorporating the best of ourselves into our business. When we began building the market Dan and I initially just wanted to do a larger farm store with a pick your own herb garden and small gift shop. It has transformed into a comfortable, interesting space that people of all ages seem to really enjoy. I get such joy out of working on the farm and hearing customers comments to each other on how special our farm is. I never tire of hearing that people enjoy what we have done.

When you walk through our barn doors you enter our retail produce market. However, you will find much more than produce! I have incorporated what I call decorator creep. Mixed in with all the products you will find not only our proprietary jams, honey, sauces, etc. you will find things for your home, garden, and life. It’s a fun and interesting way to shop for dinner! Customers are always shocked when they come in for the first time. Because my husband’s family has been farming in Orange County for 96 years people just assume they know what we are all about… strawberries. While we decidedly have Orange County’s Berry Best strawberries and farm fresh produce we are so much more now.

The market is a must-see destination that is hard to put into words. People often ask where I come up with all the ideas for the decorating. The answer is I’m not quite sure. While interior design is my absolute passion, I have no formal training for doing it. I have just always been good at it. I have a long history of going into the homes of my friends and family and rearranging furniture… that’s obnoxious! I love showing people how to take what they already have and transforming their space with some very simple and inexpensive changes. Luckily my friends and family are always receptive to my changes. My decorating education has literally come out of years of trial and error. People will often say “I’m not creative”. My answer is always “The more creative you get, the more creative you get”. What my experience has taught me is that people don’t think they know how to decorate so they don’t do anything at all. They buy a couch, coffee table and a couple chairs and call it done. They end up with a kind of cookie-cutter look because they don’t think they are qualified enough to just play around with their own home. This is where my saying comes in. The more you try to be creative, have a little fun and play around the more creative you will actually get. Without even trying ideas will just start popping into your brain.

I’ve been so blessed with a husband who shares my vision for the farm. Like me, he loves seeing people walking all around the farm. The more he sees kids enjoying the tractor swings, people snipping fresh herbs, and literally shopping from the trees, the more he wants to provide other things to do. I’m the same way. The more that I’m at our farm the more potential I see for space. While my husband and I both work really hard, we get energized by our surroundings. So, my advice…go for it!

Has it been a smooth road?
No matter how it looks from the outside looking in no life is without it’s challenges. You can ask the most seemingly perfect life person you know and if they are honest they will tell you they like every one else have their demons. In fact, in my experience, the most successful people are the ones that faced seemingly insurmountable obstacles to get where they are. I believe that it is totally true that we don’t learn from our successes we learn from our failures. I grew up in Abilene with a single mom. She was a secretary and I was a “latchkey kid”. I would walk home from school every day and call my mom at work to let her know I had gotten there safely. I would then fix myself a snack and spend countless hours playing in my room with my doll collection and other typical little girl stuff. I am so grateful that I grew up before everyone was addicted to their cell phones and computers. I was forced to use my imagination. My best advice for today’s young women is to listen to yourself, your heart, your inner voice. Often, those childhood games we used to play actually reveal your life’s passion. I had forgotten, until they reminded me, that every time I got together with my cousins at my great grandmother’s house that I always insisted that we played shop. I would set up a store in my granny’s spare bedroom. Using her old clothes, jewelry, handbags and shoes the store was open for business. Now, I am still playing store. Every day I get to go to the farm and just do what comes naturally. Like the saying goes, do what you love and the money will follow. I work countless hours on all aspects of our business, marketing, purchasing, decorating, sales, you name it. I do it. However, I am able to work as hard as I do because I don’t consider it work. It’s fun!

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into The Original Manassero Farms story. Tell us more about the business.
Besides our produce and gift market, we are also a completely unique special event venue. In our “barn” area our customers can come for a monthly breakfast and lunch that is prepared by our resident Master Chef, Pascal Olhats. Pascal has been in OC from Normandy, France for 35 years. He is the Wolfgang Puck of OC. He is probably the most respected and loved chef around. His cooking while decidedly French is anything but stuffy. He is such an intuitive chef that prides himself on using fresh, seasonal ingredients and simple cooking techniques. Our event venue is a highly sought after space. The space incorporates architectural salvage, natural elements and hand painting. The most popular events include bridal and baby showers, corporate events and cooking classes. You name it, we do it. People want to have events at our space because they are so special. The food is amazing and the space is anything but cookie cutter. I also like to joke that you really haven’t been to the farm until you’ve been to our bathrooms! The bathrooms are actually portable. I designed the luxurious bathrooms on a flatbed trailer. There is 100 year old barn wood on the ceilings, French antique sconces and chandelier, hand painted stall doors, 1930’s fridge, and so much more.

Do you have a lesson or advice you’d like to share with young women just starting out?
The most important piece of advice I would give a young woman just starting out in her career is to listen. Find a mentor. Find a person whose work you respect and admire and then listen to them. Watch what they do, how they do it, how they handle adversity, how they deal with people. Ask lots of questions and then actually listen and absorb their answers.

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Image Credit:

Lauren Hillary Photography, Jesse Mergenthaler – www.jmfoto.net/blog

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