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By Leon Thompson

June 30, 2012 (Lakeside)--In October 2003 the Cedar Fire incinerated 280,000 acres, destroyed 2820 homes and killed 15 people.  Like many others, Lakeside’s Wildcat Canyon resident Ingrid Coffin was alerted in the middle of the night that she was in the path of the most devastating firestorm our state had ever seen.

Although some structures were lost, Ingrid and her husband, Bob, escaped with their lives, along with others in the Blue Sky Ranch community. Out of the ashes rose the Blue Sky Ranch a 60-acre fruit and vegetable farm that demonstrates green practices in architecture, site planning, and agriculture.  This award winning intentional  community is dedicated to inspiring and motivating the public to live happy, healthy and well-balanced lives by creating healthy environments and teaching eco-responsible practices.

The experience of the Cedar Fire has traumatized this region to this day. It is Coffin’s intention to share Blue Sky Ranch as a place of healing.  

Blue Sky Ranch is nestled between three beautiful public open space preserves, Audubon’s Silverwood Wildlife Sanctuary, El Capitan and Oak Oasis parks.  There are scenic horse trails and a county hiking trail through the property up into the mountainside.

All around the Ranch are signs of vibrant life.  These include groves of citrus, two huge vegetable gardens, rebounding native plants like manzanita and oak trees.  Songbirds, hawks, coyotes, bobcats and foxes have returned. 

Music, laughter and children’s voices blend with the sounds of hard work.  “Sky Kids” learn how to grow and enjoy fresh organic food.  The Farm at Blue Sky Ranch is a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture farm) providing fresh, organic fruits and vegetable varieties grown for their flavor and nutrition (rather than shelf-life).  http://www.healingfromthegroundup.org/ 

Each week, boxes of food are distributed to members of the CSA along with recipes and background on the delicious foods provided.   You can pick up foods at the farm, or at a variety of other locations across San Diego County. 

The Marine Room restaurant in La Jolla and the dining room at Barona Resort serve vegetables from the Farm for their wonderful flavors, textures and rich colors.

The ranch focuses on regenerative building and site design, from solar panels that power retrofitted and recycled housing to the sustainable agricultural practices utilized here. 

Now the owners hope to find new community partners seeking to demonstrate sustainable growing practices.  In the near future, Blue Sky Ranch aspires to host an educational and festive event that will be open to community members across East County and our region.

Through educational programs and workshops, the community teaches how to build healthy environments and use eco-responsible practices. Past projects have included retrofitted and recycled housing utilizing energy-saving techniques including solar electric photovoltaic systems and plumbing for gray water. 

Vigorous recycling has led to creation of massive firebreaks using demolished slabs and sidewalks, now transformed into beautifully stepped garden landscaping. Blue Sky Ranch has also set aside acres of open space adjacent to neighboring open space preserves.

Blue Sky Ranch encompasses green building, sustainable agriculture and spiritual inspiration. Feeding the spiritual side of life are the meditation garden, African path garden, labyrinth centered around a “geomantic power spot”, and tree of life. Classes in metaphysical thought and instruction in holistic healing bridge science and spirituality, offered by professional practitioners. 

The Ranch’s designer, Stephen Bolling, focuses on regenerative buildings and site design to restore and revitalize both the built and natural environments—as well as promoting healthy living and rejuvenating lives. 

As Blue Sky Ranch develops with new projects, Coffin intends to document them as educational resources—and open Blue Sky Ranch to the public regularly so that others can learn from the experience. 

Coffin’s philosophy takes a holistic approach that considers the combined environmental, economic and social impacts of development.  Meditation and walking gardens create sanctuary spaces as well as controls that impede wildfire. 

The labyrinth and tree of life are included in classes and events celebrating natural cycles, setting the tone for a healing, nurturing environment.

Visitors strolling throughout this beautiful haven will also find inspirational art installations, including a flame-like metallic art sculpture -- all that remains of a tractor melted in the Cedar Fire. 

It is a fitting symbol of the resilient spirit here at Blue Sky Ranch, resurrected from the ashes of the past into a thriving model of sustainability for the future.

September 29, 3-6:30 p.m., a special event, "Living Green at the Blue Sky Ranch" will be held in conjunction with the Heartland Coalition, focused on a "sustainable solutions" program. Watch for details soon.

For more information on Blue Sky Ranch programs, architecture and agriculture, visit: 

BLUE SKY RANCH: www.blueskyranch.org

FARM AT BLUE SKY RANCH: www.healingfromthegroundup.org