Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Visit to an Urban Farm - The Fairview Gardens Story

Jen Emiko Higa Corey met me at the Fairview Gardens Farm Stand on Monday morning to take me on a tour of this Goleta, California farm and to answer my questions about the operation of this highly productive organic business.

This valuable land was preserved for agriculture in an urban landscape.  I came to see if the techniques, marketing and production ideas that make this farm business work on so many different levels could be used in rural communities like ours in PEI.    

Using a land trust to preserve farmland is something
many people might want to know more about.  In many areas of North America, valuable farm land is being lost to development. A private owner agreed to put this land in a Trust managed by a non profit corporation that agrees to run the land as an organic farm.  On our walk, Jen explained how the farm manages crop production in this front field and how it even values it's "view-scape" by being aware of what the public sees as they drive by.  And by the way it IS January and Fairview Gardens is actively growing.                                                                                                                                          

The strawberries are coming early, thanks to rain and warm weather.  Although the berry crop is always welcome for the cash it brings, the concern is that a sudden cold snap could be a major setback for these "seascape" plants.  Jen explained the difference between the slower organic cropping technique at Fairview and how it differs from other commercial growers in the region. (In 2007, there were 6,414 acres of strawberries harvested in our county at a value of  $312,754,997). At Fairview Gardens this is a high value AND a high quality crop.

This Series will continue in the following post.  Be sure to check back in the next few days for more.  Better yet, become a subscriber or follower of the blog by using the links provided on the right hand side of the page. And you can share this blog with your friends too by emailing a link.

You can contact Jen Emiko Higa Corey at Fairview Gardens and visit their website for more information.

Finally, please add your questions and comments to the blog so that  I get your feedback and we can share your information with those interested in this topic.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Visit to an Urban Farm

Fairview Gardens Farm (click to enlarge)

I visited Fairview Gardens this morning. I took a tour of the Farm and got a few pictures and interviews with several people on the management team who run the farm.  I have wonderful interviews, pictures and information to share about the farm and it's Community Supported Agriculture program.  I'll be posting podcasts, pictures and photos in the next few days.

For our readers in SoCal it's a great chance to learn about the Center for Urban Agriculture and this valuable food and farming resource in our area.

For our friends in northern climes, especially in PEI, it's a way to pass some time during the season when your farm sleeps and look in on a working farm that operates year 'round. I learned a few things that I'm really excited to pass along to you.

So keep checking in this week, or subscribe to the blog so you don't miss anything!  

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Surfing at Campus Point - UCSB

Surfing Campus Point on Saturday, January 16.   

If you're working or learning at UCSB,  you are a short walk from one of the most popular surf spots in the county.  In fact, the beach is right across the street from some of the student residence halls.  Susan and I took the ten minute drive from our house to Campus Point with her brother Tom and his wife,Susan, on a beautiful day when the sun was out and the surf was up.  The UCSB Marine Lab is in the background.   

When we arrived we scanned the water, looking  for my brother, Peter and my  10 year old son, Toby. For months,  Peter has been teaching Toby to surf.  They started on boogie boards and Toby has gradually worked up to a regular surfboard.  And for Christmas, the family chipped in on a winter wetsuit. We all went out to the beach to see how they were doing.  At The Point there were several dozen surfers bobbing in the water.

Four to six foot waxes were coming in ahead of a Pacific Storm (it's raining today) and the 4 to 6 foot waves were steady all afternoon.

The scene included young guys shredding and a group of old school guys like this one with a woody  - a classic hand built all wood long board!  Dude! Your board is gnarly!  

We spotted Toby in The Cove waiting for a set to come in.

Toby and Uncle Peter turn around and get ready to ride!  Peter was a student at UCSB and has been surfing since the early 70's.  Now he teaches US History to UC students and surfing to his nephew. Maybe this is why some  people say that UCSB stands for UC-Surf-Board

Toby rides in on his knees.  He's just about ready for
his first stand up ride!

We were there as Toby went from knee boarding to standing up to get his first ride the shore without a wipe-out.  And so cool to see him learn to ride the waves with his uncle - a genuine old-school surf dude.    


A 1963 Studebaker Lark - With Owner!  He said his family bought the car used in 1964 and he restored it when he was 16.  Yesterday he took it to the beach and went for a kayak ride (click to enlarge).

Two classics from the same year on the same day!  This 1963 Chevy Bel Air lowrider was in the parking lot while the owner was presumed out in the surf.  Liked the "Praise the Lowered" sign in the window and the hand pinstriping.  "Charp!" (click to enlarge)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Fears and Dreams

I used to know an old cowboy who was also a Deputy Sheriff.  He was big man who sometimes did law enforcement the old way -  with a gunbelt and a Steston on horse back.  Picture a quieter, low key version of John Wayne. He'd stop in to visit the ranch I was working on, sometimes to hunt quail or just shoot the breeze.  When it was time to go he'd say,  "I'm done bein' here". I was always struck by the good humor and the clarity of that statement.

After months of debate and delay Susan and I have decided that we're "done bein' here" in Santa Barbara. And in that decision, all things become clear and we're dashing away from the starting line as if the starter fired a pistol.

But last night I was visited by ghosts.  A series of mental knocks and dragging chains that woke me and tormented me at 3:00 AM.  What about the career success I promised myself but never achieved here?  What about the business I started and built in Santa Barbara, only to watch it deflate in the current economic calamity?  What about  this new venture of farming?  The ghosts were swirling and stirring up my fears of failure.  Feelings of remorse arrived with each review of my past.  The ghosts said, "Look at all the ways you have failed!" What about the time I wasted instead of building success? What makes me think I can DO this?

The intention to move has been ours for years.  The physical move is now beginning.  I've just discovered that I'm not quite ready yet to saddle up. I've got a lot of work to do and a long way to go before I can face the spirits of fear and doubt and confidently say to myself, "I'm done bein' here."


  I stopped in for a dentist appointment and saw this nicely kept '66 Mustang in the parking lot.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Wishbone

My wish is that you are beginning the New Year as I am; full of hope and optimism even as we slog through the season of economic blizzard.
Here at our little old farm house in Santa Barbara, we enjoyed a Christmas turkey dinner with my  whole family  - maybe for the last time. My mother and brothers, our wives and all of the cousins were here. My nephew Robert announced that he and his wife Mika are expecting a baby.  The first child of the next generation is coming this year.

The turkey was a big, beautiful free-range bird and we enjoyed sharing it at the kitchen table. It was full of natural flavor (not injected with salt and butter flavoring) and the meat had real color. The next day I trimmed it up and put the rest into the boiler. I made soup stock and cleaned the meat off the carcass. As I was processing I set aside the wishbone. Susan and I used her Christmas present to make egg noodles for the soup and we ground up some of the turkey meat for sandwich spread.  We made multiple meals from that bird with very little waste. That made us feel particularly wise and virtuous. (It doesn't take much.).

On New Years day, Susan and I sat at the kitchen table and planned a major new project for the farm. We're going to grow enough organic feed to support our own flock of organic chickens. We will finally be putting one of our front fields into production after years of experimenting with plowing, cover cropping and weed control. We're ready to expand the farm into grain and poultry this year.

The wishbone. The decorated tree. The old customs and superstitions flow from ancient roots that sprout green hopes in this season. We have a New Year tradition that Susan brought from Wisconsin. We eat a bit of pickled herring on New Years Eve to ensure good fortune in the coming year. It is a fragment perhaps of some old norse tradition this wish with fish that somehow arrived in the upper mid-west and is now grafted onto our family tree.  

What a year this will be.                                

We will be moving to Prince Edward Island. We are preparing to launch our oldest son into University. Susan is retiring. We are taking up farming for a living. We'll be welcoming the new generation. Perhaps you'll forgive us if we reach out  to reassure ourselves with a few of the old and warn talismans and touch-stones of good fortune.  

Pass the pickled herring. Pull the wishbone Cross your fingers and say a prayer for us.

What a year this is going to be!

(Pictures: Christmas tree in the foreground with a blood orange tree outside the window - already decorated with its own ornaments and "The Cousins".)