Meet Javier Magana (pictured right), owner and operator of Red Barn Farms. As the veteran tenant farmer out at City Farm SLO, Javier continues to amaze us with his knowledge, passion and sense of humor when it comes to sustainably growing a wide variety of seasonal crops.
His same-day harvested produce can be found at local Farmers Markets and restaurants including Novo and Luna Red, which features a "Red Barn Salad" on its menu. If you're looking to drink your greens instead, Javier also provides fresh produce to his wife, Julia of Julia's Juices. Her delightful creations can be found at their brick and mortar shop in Grover Beach or various Farmers Markets throughout the county.
Javier moved his operation from Arroyo Grande to City Farm SLO in the summer of 2015 due to drought conditions. His water disappeared after neighbors on both sides of the land he'd been leasing dug wells several hundred feet deep. Central Coast Grown happily welcomed Javier so he could continue to improve the land and use the water to grow food without any artificial fertilizers or pesticides; but most importantly the opportunity meant he could continue to support his family.
Now, Javier's produce is in such high demand that he has recently expanded his lease from six acres to ten acres to join forces with his business partner, Ruffino (pictured above, left), in planting English peas for wholesale marketing.
In addition to working long hours, Javier's success can be credited to know-how and experimentation. For example, picture below you will find Javier and one of his farmers peeling garlic to blend with hot chili-peppers and water for an organic pest-control spray that works! We look forward to a continued partnership with Javier and Red Barn Farms in 2017!
City Farm SLO Educational Programs Continue to Grow!
Vegetables aren't the only thing growing at City Farm this year! Our two educational programs, Pacific Beach High School and PREPARE are expanding due to increased awareness and excitement at what the farm has to offer.
Students and faculty at PBHS are clearly enjoying their time out on the farm as our partnership has been extended into the 2017 school year. We have seen increased enrollment, attendance and course completion numbers this year. Session lengths have also increased from six weeks to nine weeks to ensure students are getting a comprehensive experience. We have even been seeing more familiar faces as students return for consecutive sessions. Currently, students have teamed up with Elizabeth, from SLO Seed Exchange to plant winter grains as cover crop/pest control and analyze scientific data on their findings.
PREPARE, our horticultural therapy program which started in January this year, has proven to be successful. Staff reports that this innovative model has shown dramatic transformations among its students, including shifts from fear to delight about eating vegetables pulled from the ground and excitement at participation in distribution of the harvest to families in need at local church functions. Weeding seems to be a favorite activity among students, and our farmers couldn't be more proud and thrilled at their participation.
City Farm SLO's Pilot CSA Program Was A Great Success!
This June, City Farm SLO launched its pilot CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program. We want to thank our founding members, fifteen brave families, that subscribed for a 22-week share of sustainably grown and harvested produce from CCG's one acre parcel of crop land. Family members arrived at the farm every Wednesday afternoon to pack their own bags and boxes with a variety of vegetables grown by CCG staff and students of the City Farm School Program. Weekly partial shares included seasonal vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, beets, chard, kale, carrots, eggplant, cantaloupe, watermelon,
potatoes, onions, squash, peppers, pumpkins and more! Full shares were supplemented with additional produce from City Farm tenants such as Michael Huggins of Dacite Farm (ginger, turmeric, galingale, salsify) and Javier Magana of Red Barn Farms (sugar peas, salad mix, beets, and herbs). Pictured below, Farmer Dena helps CSA member Lucas weigh out some beets.
When asked what their favorite part of the CSA was, several members responded, "coming out to the farm to pick up vegetables!" From our farmers' perspective, they most enjoyed hearing what everyone made out of the previous week's pickup.
This was a great opportunity to engage with the community by bridging the gap between farmers, the local food supply and consumers that enjoy preparing and eating a variety of local, seasonal vegetables.
City Farm SLO is taking the winter to rebuild the soil and develop crop plans for the warm season. Stay tuned for how to receive our produce in the future!
Infrastructure: Past, Present and Future
If you've visited the farm recently (or even driven past) you would have noticed a number of improvements to our infrastructure. First, with a little help from the City of SLO, we were able to install a bioswale extending from the entrance gate near the freeway around the southern edge of the property to a terminus near Perfumo Creek (pictured left, construction of the bioswale). This was needed to drain water that puddles in the lower end fields as a result of grading done decades ago to raise the level of commercial lots along Calle Joaquin.
Second, a new hoop house (aka high tunnel, pictured right) was constructed on CCG cropland with funds provided by a grant from the National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). This structure will be used to extend the growing season for summer and fall crops and allow us to start more crops from seed. Not to mention, it also provides a shelter from the
strong winter winds that cross the eastern end of Los Osos Valley.
Our subtenant, Michael Huggins of Dacite Farm is in the process of extending his greenhouse to increase second year production of specialty crops such as ginger, galingale and turmeric, which require tropical conditions. Michael's cutting edge experiments with growing these exotics for restaurants and farmers markets are paying off, as are his use of a
human powered vehicle to transport building supplies, and solar panels on top of his cargo container to provide electricity for power tools and a nursery facility.
Another project, now awaiting completion, is the construction of the "pergola" (pictured right) that will serve as a shade structure, classroom and meeting place for farm activities and festivities. With the help of a generous grant from PG&E, the footings, posts and beams have been erected, but we are still waiting for additional
funding to complete the roof, gravel base and handicap access parking spaces.
Finally, all of us at the farm are waiting eagerly (but patiently) for the permitting process from the City to allow installation of a 40' produce stand and tool storage facility near the entrance of City Farm. Courtesy of a generous grant secured by Landscape Architect professor, Ellen Burke, as well as the donation of her professional services, this facility will provide a marketing outlet for our tenant farmers and a gathering place for the public.