Our Guide to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms in East County
Updated January 27, 2013
By Ariele Johannson
Note: Please help us update this directory. If you know of any CSA programs we missed, please contact Ariele at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Farmers: Please send in any changes and visit our blog to connect with other farmers to help create a self-sufficient East County.
January 26, 2012 (San Diego’s East County)--Eating healthy means including plenty of fresh foods-- and the freshest of all are those grown here in East County. Have you thought about allotting part of your food budget to locally-grown organic fruits, vegetables, milk, meats, and more?
Increasingly popular, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms provide organic food to participants who buy directly from farmers. Depending on the program, the purchase might be a weekly farm box (paid weekly or monthly) or a share or half-share for the season. Deliveries can include vegetables, fruits, herbs, eggs, goat milk, specialty breads or meat.
The farmer is supported by the sales which help with materials, equipment, transportation and marketing costs. The participants benefit from weekly deliveries of fresh-harvested local produce, some at surprisingly affordable costs. This guide is meant to help you explore and find the best CSA for your family’s needs.
If you have ever belonged to a food co-op, it’s a similar feel despite some differences.
With CSAs there is no requirement to help, although some farmers have event days or visitations at their farms, and there might be opportunities to volunteer. Networking with other participants and growers is popular with CSAs.
Group deliveries provide the opportunity for people to get together. Many a “yummy” moment is shared in recollection of the past week’s original meals. Ideas and upcoming events of all kinds are exchanged. Pickups create a keen anticipation of bringing home really fresh food to your own kitchen to prepare. Yes, it’s good to know where your food comes from.
Below is our guide to CSAs here in San Diego's East County.
Primeval Gardens in Potrero
Owners: Iris and Jason Gardner
Contacts: Phone: 858-449-4843
Just one of the communities participating with Primeval Gardens in 2011 was Deerhorn Valley in Jamul. Iris drives out from Potrero every Tuesday, and there is a drop-off at a neighbor’s house. It’s a fun time to socialize, get excited about the contents of the new package, and share recipes. Each week there are a number of items offered. A partial list of her organic vegetables includes Armenian cucumbers, heirloom tomatoes, carrot varieties, beets, Swiss chard, Japanese eggplant, kale, onions, garlic, hot peppers, tomatillos, and enough tomatoes to make spaghetti sauce! Her fresh herbs and spices, such as sage, fennel, lemon verbena, chives, mint, and French tarragon help in the creation of healthy meals. Fruits in season include plums, oranges, and lemons. Her website has descriptions of a typical weekly order.
Iris has been known to go out of her way to make sure everyone gets their delivery. In concert with other local growers, she has facilitated extra orders of eggs, goat milk, and specialty homemade breads for customers who request it. Her free-range eggs are Animal Welfare approved. In time for Halloween, she harvests plenty of pumpkins, so each of her members receives one, as well as the seasonal zucchini, yellow, and butternut squash for the fall.
Iris grew up on small farms all her life, mostly off-grid. Her husband, Jason, is a Navy SEAL on active duty. Their website is a compendium of fascinating colorful photos of their farm, their produce, their Paulownia trees sold in pots, and recipes designed for the harvest. This year’s season of weekly deliveries ran from May 1 to November 29. In 2012, Iris plans to start deliveries in February. Once the season begins, they have a waiting list. Please see the website or call Iris for prices and delivery options. Besides several seasonal potlucks for CSA members, Iris and Jason welcome participants to come lend a hand on the farm.
In Iris’s own words: “We are very excited to put our land, gardening skills, and desire to eat and provide fresh, organic food to a good use. And what better use than feeding a community locally-grown fresh food!”
Hidden Haven Farms in Jamul
Out on West Boundary Truck Trail in Jamul, Cheryl Skidmore, her husband and full-time resident caretaker, Drummond, have transformed 50 acres of land into a varied and fertile farm. It really pays off for her family and many others, too! Hogs, goats, egg-layer and meat chickens, llamas, meat rabbits, horses, cows and ducks all add to the landscape of the farm.
Besides livestock, Cheryl’s farm has 600 fruit trees, such as pomegranates, peaches, plums, and apricots. There are Thompson seedless and red flame seedless grapes. Last year four bee hives produced 60 gallons of honey.
A unique feature of Hidden Haven Farms is that this CSA offers meat to its participants. Cheryl is passionate about raising her animals in clean, healthy, and compassionate conditions for the animals’ sake and the recipients’ health. Please contact Cheryl for pricing and to discuss individualizing your CSA arrangements. Also, she takes small individual orders for eggs (chicken/duck), goat milk, ducks, meat chickens, piglets, and rabbits without the necessity of joining as a CSA member.
Cheryl offers her farm as an experience, as well as a source for organic food. She caters to field trips and small group visits of children, including the Girl Scouts. The farm is open to the public by appointment. Currently, she sells her eggs and honey to Whole Foods Corporation in Orange County, Pasqual’s Restaurant, and other stores and restaurants in Orange County. In addition, she is a member of Western Price Association, which is a small organic farms association; The Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance; San Diego Farm Bureau; Orange County Bee Keepers, and San Diego Bee Keepers. She will soon be certified by the California Department of Food and Agriculture(CDFA). Cheryl is a Certified Grower Producer through the county of San Diego Agriculture Commission in order to sell at local certified farmer markets.
Eli Hofshi began farming in 1993 on a small family farm in Fallbrook and sold at local farmers’ markets. Now twenty years later, he is farming 55 acres on leased lands in Fallbrook, Pala, and Rainbow. He is assisted by his brother, Danny Hofshi. We are happy to include his CSA in Our Guide to Community Supported Agriculture Farms in East County, because we cover all areas east of I-15. One of Eli’s farms is in that region, but he also offers deliveries to many East County areas. These include El Cajon, La Mesa, Santee, Lemon Grove, Spring Valley, Chula Vista, among others.
Eli continues to serve farmers’ markets in City Heights, UTC, and Borrego Springs. He grows a large variety of seasonal vegetables, avocados, citrus, and herbs. Some of his foods are not available in most grocery stores; cherimoyas, lychees, guavas, okra, and more. He has always prided himself on growing naturally and bringing high-quality fresh produce directly to consumers. That means directly to your door! (If you choose one of the four pick-up areas, you do receive a discount of $5.)
Their CSA produce box subscription is their newest way to bring fresh produce to your doorstep with a weekly or bimonthly home delivery service, year round. Buying local guarantees you the freshest produce, grown with sustainable, environmentally-friendly practices that support our local economy. Eli’s passion is educating people about where their food comes from and making consumers aware of the challenges and rewards of farming. They sometimes work two to three jobs in order to continue farming. This brings a healthier lifestyle to San Diegans, as well as convenience. In addition, CSA subscribers shrink their carbon footprint by cutting out transport resources required for traditional grocery shipping and distribution.
Eli offers two sizes of delivery boxes:
Farmer’s Pick CSA Boxes contain 10-12 seasonal items that include veggies, avocados, citrus, and herbs. Price $25. (This price includes delivery to your door.)
Farmer’s Pick Plus CSA Boxes contain an additional 3-4 items. Price $35. (This price includes delivery to your door.)
Note: The prices are the same value as you would get at their farmers' markets. They try not to overload people with too much of one item, so they give you a variety. You may purchase additional items for your box, such as honey; naval, blood, strawberry, or Cara Cara oranges; Satsuma and Clementine tangerines; Meyer and Eureka Lemons; and sweet and Bearss limes. Please see website for amounts and prices.
The Farm at Blue Sky Ranch in Lakeside
The best part of a CSA can be getting to know your growers. Maybe they grew up on a farm, were in Future Farmers of America, or studied at a university level or with a mentor. And some, like Taj Chaffin, got a wake-up call and turned a passion for gardening into a lifestyle. He inspires others through his creation of a sustainable farm on a portion of Blue Sky Ranch. Taj has learned from Barry Logan, formerly of La Milpa Organics; from his self-initiated studies of the methods of Rudolf Steiner and John Jeavons; and from his personal experiences of living off the land.
In addition to hosting the Blue Sky Ranch Community, Blue Sky Ranch supports almost 800 trees including stone fruit (peaches, apricots, plums, nectarines, pears), subtropicals (all citrus, star fruit, passion fruit) and almost year-round avocados. Concern for this fertile land started The Blue Sky Ranch Community 22 years ago. Founder Ingrid Coffin and others moved from San Diego and restored the neglected orchards. Then, Farmer Taj created a new facet of the ranch when he began growing organics seven years ago. His Farm at Blue Sky Ranch is made possible by this community of extraordinary individuals dedicated to making a difference in their own lives and the future of the world. Blue Sky Ranch Community’s website is www.blueskyranch.org. In addition to feeding the Community and the CSA members, Blue Sky ranch now provides ultra-fresh fruit and produce to Marine Room in La Jolla and the chefs at Barona Valley Resort.
Taj’s farm has three kitchen gardens producing vegetables such as bok choy, the super-veggie dinosaur kale, peas, onions, Ford Hook Swiss chard, and healthy staples, such as potatoes, beans, lettuce, peas, squash, multi-color fingerling potatoes, mesclun mixes and heirloom tomatoes.
His CSA season is year-round. Farmer Taj takes a personalized approach and likes to meet every prospective member. This way he can have them in mind when he packs the weekly boxes, which include some recipes. This is true for all of his customers, whether they pick up in Rancho San Diego or Kensington or at the Ranch.
From the mundane to the sublime, Taj enjoys experiencing himself through loving what he does. To him, farming is the most honest job on the planet and a natural way of checking the reality of what it takes to make an economy work. “It’s not an individual endeavor,” he explains. “A successful farm is one that builds and supports community. Also, our neighboring farms trade organic field crops for our excess citrus and everyone gets what they need. We call it ‘coopetiton;’ cooperating with your competition.” By the way, you can tailor this CSA program to your needs instead of having to purchase an allotment for a whole month or the whole season.