By Dina Eliash Robinson
(Photos by Coastal Roots Farm)
Bathed in the peach-colored Southern California sunlight, the Coastal Roots Farm sells its fresh-picked organic produce to the public on Thursdays and Sundays for whatever buyers wish or can afford to pay. During one of our earliest visits years ago, the Farm was donating some of its produce to the families of wounded veterans returning from wars, as well as to homeless shelters and food banks sustaining the poorest communities.
Established by the Leichtag Foundation in 2012 when it purchased the land of the former Paul Ecke Poinsettia Ranch in Encinitas, CA—a scenic coastal community in San Diego’s North County, once renowned as the “World’s Flower Capital”—the 67.5 acre agricultural property was gradually transformed into the Coastal Roots Farm, one of the most innovative and environmentally friendly examples of 21st century biodynamic models of pesticide-free soil cultivation using energy and water conservation.
An independent nonprofit 501c(3) organization and education center, Coastal Roots Farm teaches the philosophical and practical application of ancient Jewish agricultural traditions, such as sustainable farming and the sharing of harvests with communities that lack access to safe and nutritious foods.
Celebrating Tu B’Shevat, the Jewish Festival of Trees, Coastal Root Farm has planted a Food Forest consisting of 1,500 trees producing 50 different species of fruits and developed an innovative irrigation system that captures, saves and distributes rainwater where and when it is needed and is most helpful to the trees.
The Farm quickly responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by instituting a full gamut of safety precautions to protect shoppers, staff and field workers from the virus. Managers maintain strict rules for all staff members and shoppers of mask wearing and social distancing from the moment one the latter drives onto the Farm premises—where each car is directed by a security officer to an available parking space. All arrivals are made to feel quite comfortable by being guided to the (usually short and quick-moving) waiting line. There, a table awaits—at a considerate writing-height—displaying printed lists of that day’s freshly harvested vegetables, flowers and potted plants available for sale.
As added courtesy, a box of sharpened pencils are set out, with which to mark the items and quantities on the list that one wishes to purchase.
In a remarkably smooth and efficient order, a staff member then collects and marks each shopper’s list with his or her name, brings it to the picturesque checkout shack, where the cashier adds up the purchase value, informs the customer that any amount (of cash) is accepted and passes the list on to a staff ‘shopper’ who selects, weighs and bags the ordered produce and hands it over with a friendly ‘Thank you.”
After several shopping trips to Coastal Root Farm, my husband and I are still impressed by the excellent flavors and textures of the vegetables we have bought so far—regardless of whether they ended up cooked or in raw salads. We are now looking forward to the Food Forest fruits we hope to see before long in the sales bins from which the shopper will be selecting our purchases.