By Lonnie Burstein Hewitt
We don't usually think of our region as farmland, but according to agricultural statistics, San Diego has more than 6,500 small farms (under 10 acres) — more than any other county in the country. And high on a hillside, looking out toward Torrey Pines State Beach, is one of the smallest — Seabreeze Organic Farm.
Owner Stephenie Caughlin bought her 1.85-acre property in 1978 when the hillside was covered with chaparral and eucalyptus trees. A former commodities trader, with degrees in home economics, botany, and humanistic psychology, she grew up in south Texas, and had happy memories of childhood summers on her grandmother's farm.
So in 1988, she made a career change to farming, and over the past two decades, Seabreeze has been producing an array of fruit, flowers, vegetables and herbs. There's also an assortment of rescued animals — chickens, ducks, two Corgis, one turkey, one goat, and a pony.
"We're about taking care of things, animals and people," Caughlin said. "We enjoy feeding them in a healthy, beautiful, nurturing environment."
She does it all with the aid of 13 full-and part-time helpers, and, for the last eight years, a helpful husband, Kendall Cook.
"He husbands," she said, laughing, pointing out that the dictionary definition of husbandry involves farming and good, thrifty management.
Normally, Seabreeze's bounty can only be experienced by members of its CSA, a community-sponsored agriculture program in which folks buy shares of a farm's produce and receive a basket of goodies each week.
"You become one of our family," Caughlin explained. "You get to know your grower, and we get to know you."
This month, the farm is offering two special opportunities to experience its varied delights, which include wandering pathways lined with flowers and mulberry trees, vertical growing towers, a plein-air art studio, a straw-bale house, and lovely vistas in all directions.
On July 17, Slow Food Urban San Diego will host a farm tour, followed by lunch, and on July 30, Seabreeze will offer a lunch tour of its own.
"We're hoping to become a great destination site," Caughlin said. "We'll provide the setting, this little green gem of an urban farm, and we look forward to children's parties, weekend brunches, afternoon teas and full-moon dinners. We could even have summit meetings up here! We'll have good things to eat in a homey environment with elegant touches, and any event you can come up with, we'll be happy to do."
If you can't make the Seabreeze lunch tours, or you want to try a longer journey, July 17 is the next date for the monthly Third Saturday movie-and-pizza potluck at La Milpa Organica Farm in Escondido, now in its seventh year of supplying produce to places like Prepkitchen, Tapenade, and the Lodge at Torrey Pines.
Weather-wise, this July may be gloomy, but it's a great time to meet and eat with your local food-growers.
IF YOU GO
Seabreeze Organic Farm
- 3909 Arroyo Sorrento Road
- (858) 481-0209
- Lunch Tours: 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. July 17; 11 a.m. July 30 (call for reservations)
La Milpa Organica Farm
- 9928 Protea Gardens Road
- (760) 839-1111
- Third Saturday potluck: 6 p.m. July 17