New Coastal Roots Farm executive director shares goals, history

Coastal Roots Farm has selected a new leader with nearly two decades of nonprofit experience in San Diego County.

Javier Guerrero joined Coastal Roots Farm on June 4 as the Encinitas-based organization's Executive Director. Guerrero is the first person to hold this title since the farm was established in 2014.

In his new role, Guerrero is tasked with helping Coastal Roots Farm continue to provide high-quality produce to the community, educational programs, community programs, partnerships and more.

Guerrero recently sat down with the Encinitas Advocate to discuss his excitement for his new position, his goals and his history in nonprofits in the county.

What are your goals as the new executive director of Coastal Roots Farm?

Stepping in as the first executive director, it's very important to reach out internally and make sure we build up a strong team. There's the production side of what happens here with the farming team, and they're responsible for the food production that is going out into the community. In terms of food justice and providing fresh, organic produce to vulnerable communities here in the North County area, we want to make sure that team is staffed up, resourced and as strong as it can be. One of the big goals coming in is to really build up the education and community programs that take place here on site. That includes bringing in school groups of different age ranges. There have also been community events here, but we're seeing what other events and activities we can create here on site. Utilizing the farm is a core aspect of that.

What can you tell us about your background in San Diego nonprofits?

I've been working in nonprofits in San Diego for close to 20 years. I was at the San Diego Museum of Man for eight years. I started [there] as a curator and left there as the director of operations. I was with SurfAid International, which is an international health development nonprofit actually based in Encinitas. The last eight years, I have been focusing on a wonderful project, the San Diego Children's Discovery Museum in Escondido. That's just been a really wonderful experience. I helped it grow. When I came in 2010, the attendance was right around 7,500. This year, it will be around 160,000. When I came in, the budget was maybe $300,000, and this year the budget is close to $2 million. When I came, the organization was five employees and now it's more than 35 employees. I really wanted to establish the prominence and the impact of the Children's Museum in North County and in the region. Going back to those goals, I'm very much interested in really looking at what is the greatest impact that a working farm like this can have in this region, in terms of an experience, education and really maximizing that impact and engaging people in the community.

How have your previous positions prepared you for your new role as the executive director and the tasks you'll be taking on?

It's similar in nature to when I came into the Children's Museum. It was an organization that, at that point, had been around for about 10 years but it had only really grown to a certain size. Very similarly, when I came to that organization, the board and some supporters in the community had this vision of what it could become, and that involved moving to a new location and expanding the operations and impact on the community. How it translates to coming over here is something similar where the board, Leichtag Foundation and others that have made investments in the farm and in this property really are looking for that next level of growth and impact in the community to fulfill its mission. It's very important to note that also the Coastal Roots is a nonprofit Jewish community farm and education center providing access to fresh food for those who need it most. There's a lot of really wonderful values and connectedness of Jewish traditions and Jewish values that are almost universal in nature. It's really beautiful and wonderful that everybody can enjoy that.

Why does Coastal Roots Farm's message resonate with you?

My whole focus in nonprofits in this arena has always been about providing experiences and creating resources and making sure people have equitable access to them. I think the accessibility is very important to me. Everybody should have access in a dignified way. They have the pay-what-you-can farm stand on site and the farm also goes out to vulnerable communities, which are great touch points that otherwise, oftentimes, the food they're receiving may be canned or not to the kind of quality of what many people would like to have in terms of fresh produce. Creating the access is something that is really important to me with my background as a cultural anthropologist. ... I've known and had relationships with people here at Leichtag for around eight years, and I've seen Coastal Roots Farm kind of evolve since its inception.

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