Carmel Valley's organic farm sends healthy, quality foods into homes

For the last 22 years, Seabreeze Organic Farm in Carmel Valley has been growing and delivering farm fresh produce. As owner Stephenie Caughlin puts it, they are small in size but mighty in production.

High on a hill off Arroyo Sorrento Road, the farm takes up two and a half acres. Roosters cock-a-doodle and a goat named Elsa wanders free, in addition to several friendly dogs.

Caughlin's home sits on the highest part of the property, surrounded by flowers, her laundry drying on clotheslines off her porch. When she's not busy on the farm she spends free time painting watercolors in her studio.


"It's like a little girl's dream," Caughlin said.


Caughlin bought the property in 1978 when there were hardly any other homes around, mainly just chaparral and groves of eucalyptus trees.

She had worked as a high school teacher, a gold broker and a CEO of futures trading companies, but in 1988 started to seriously farm and raise food on her property.

Offices for her business are in charming "cabinets" and there is also a straw bale house on the property, a house constructed partially with straw and other sustainable materials.

Caughlin calls herself an "old home economist" and is incredibly proud of her independence, taking no financial help or grants from the government.

She is happy, busy and takes very seriously the responsibility of sending healthy, quality food into 150 homes each week.

Her favorite part of her farm?

"Not having to leave it," she said.

Seabreeze friend Talley Hutcherson was brought on board in October of 2008 to help care for an Icelandic horse named Blaze, one of many animals Caughlin has rescued. In caring for the horse, Hutcherson came to be very interested in organic farming and the way Seabreeze works.

"Most people don't think about where their food comes from," Hutcherson said. "Stephenie is holding up a huge, high standard."

By subscribing to Seabreeze through a

CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)

, members can have produce delivered to their homes once a week or twice a month. CSA members can opt to have a small or large bag delivered—while what's inside the bag differs from week to week, it always comes with a bouquet of fresh flowers from the farm.

Last week's delivery included avocado, oranges, Minneola tangelos, Asian pears, cabbage, cauliflower or broccoli, carrots, alfalfa sprouts, beets, lettuce, salad with edible flowers, eggplant, Jewel yams and celery.

"I work really hard to use it all up and we're a family of four," said Hutcherson, adding she likes to find new recipes to use more unfamiliar veggies or fruits.

A thoughtful weekly newsletter written by Caughlin always provides a healthy recipe for one of the items in the bags as well as sweet stories from life on the farm. A Feb. 1 edition told a story of a rare swallowtail butterfly flitting around on her snapdragons.

CSA members can also order additional items from Seabreeze's online

green store

free of charge, such as chicken, duck or turkey eggs, organic meat, raw honey or their Every Bean Counts organic coffee.

Caughlin said her customers and subscribers are incredibly important.

"I always say it takes a community to sustain a local farm," she said.

Hutcherson can understand the value of supporting a place like Seabreeze, she used to own a horse ranch in Malibu and was forced to sell her property.


"If the community supports the farm then it stays, if not, it is in jeopardy and it won't be replaced by another farm," Hutcherson said.


Hutcherson said many organic farms like Seabreeze are turning to an agro-tourism model to help sustain their business. Caughlin has created accommodations for overnight farm stays and an outdoor entertainment area to host events or parties. School children can come visit the farm and then enjoy a lunch of organic salad and pizza made in an outdoor oven.

Visitors can see how an organic farm operates: The chickens being raised in a healthy open environment and produce grown without chemicals or pesticides.

Visitors can also take hikes on a trail that links to open space or check out Caughlin's style of "vertical farming" where lettuce, herbs, small vegetables and small fruits grow in rows stacked upward.

Hutcherson said it's a more efficient way of farming as they have to make sure that every inch of land can produces something that keeps the farm going.

Caughlin said that many techniques they use on the farm are things people can do in their own backyards or school gardens.

"Organic farming is not a new thing, it's common sense," Caughlin said. "I encourage everyone to have their own garden, the Internet is a wealth of information for people. Local food is local security."

To learn more about Seabreeze Organic Farm or schedule a tour, visit

www.seabreezed.com

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