Digging in at Coastal Roots Farm

It is with great excitement that I share the name of our newly seeded “Coastal Roots Farm,” a nonprofit education and community farm on about 20 acres of the Leichtag’s 67.5-acre property.

The newly seeded farm consists of organic/biodynamic gardens, orchards, food forest, native plant hedgerows, vineyard, animals, compost, nursery and a soon-to-open farm stand on Saxony Road.

We envision a world in which every community comes together to grow and share healthy food, care for the land, help their neighbors and strengthen the connections they have with each other. At Coastal Roots Farm, we seed, we grow and we share. We seed new ideas around sustainable farming and Jewish life; we grow healthy food; and we share the harvest with the community.

Our primary goals for the farm are to grow nutritious food for our local community, especially those who lack access to fresh food. We intend to model and teach sustainable agriculture, and foster more vital Jewish life in North County.

Coastal Roots Farm is just getting started. We are proud to have already donated more than 30,000 pounds of fresh produce to local food pantries, teaching workshops and launching our first farm apprenticeship program, and hosting numerous Jewish farm-based programs, including our recent Sukkot Harvest Festival, which drew more than 1,500 people.

We will be hosting the first Food Forest Festival on Jan. 24 by putting hundreds of fruit trees in our food forest with the help of hundreds of volunteers (sign up at facebook.com/coastalrootsfarm). The festival is also intended to celebrate Tu B’ Shvat, the “new year of the trees,” which will commence the next seven-year planting cycle.

Over the past year I have written about the Shmita year many times, which officially ended Sept. 18. I described how we used this past year to grow food in our above-ground Shmita Sock Farm, cover-crop the fields to let them rest and regenerate, and develop our farm vision and identity.

Now that we are able to plant in the ground again and in anticipation of a rainy winter, there has been a tremendous effort to prep the soil throughout the property for planting and erosion control.

We have amended, ripped and spaded a few acres of land at Coastal Roots Farm and Farm Lab. We have begun planting our first fall crop of lettuces, strawberries, root crops and other leafy greens. With help from Ecology Artisans, a local permaculture design firm based in the North County Hub, a collaborative co-working space here at the Leichtag Foundation property, significant earthworks have been accomplished on our 8-acre food forest and “silvipasture” area.

Earthworks is the process of shaping the land to optimize rainwater harvesting, minimize erosion and maximize productivity of plantings. Silvipasture is an agroforestry term referring to a system where trees are planted with pastureland in between for grazing animals and/or raising annual crops between the orchard rows.

As our farm grows, so does the team that is making it all happen. I am thrilled to introduce our new associate program director, Simcha Schwartz, who will be leading all of our farm programs, including the newly launched apprenticeship.

Simcha brings a wealth of experience and passion for this work, and we are fortunate that he has chosen to move here from New York to join the Coastal Roots Farm team. The apprenticeship selection process was extremely competitive, with more than 60 qualified applicants, narrowed down to about a dozen finalists with only four hired positions. We are now just a few weeks into the program and the self-proclaimed “four musketeers” are: Food Forest and Nursery, Jean-Paul Rivera, Puerto Rico; Education, Jamie Pratt, San Diego; Vegetable Production, Itai Seigel, Israel; Animal Husbandry and Compost: Ellie Honan, Minnesota.

All of them will be sharing their work and passion through our new Coastal Roots Facebook page, Instagram and coming blog. We invite those of you interested in getting your hands dirty on the farm to come to our weekly volunteer opportunities from 8-10 a.m. Tuesdays and 2-5 p.m. Sundays starting Dec. 6.

To find out more, sign up for our newsletter at www.coastalrootsfarm.org. Hope to see you on the farm soon.

A nationally known farmer, Daron Joffe serves as director of agricultural innovation and development at Leichtag Foundation and Coastal Roots Farm.

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