A few weeks ago this suburban girl got to go visit a local farm, and what a treat! We’re pretty lucky here in southern CA to be able to travel a short distance to farms, orchards, and vineyards . . . and to be able to hit our local farmers markets or farm stands for fresh produce all year long. For those of you who actually live on a farm . . . envious!
Stehly Farms Organics (http://stehlyfarmsorganics.com/), a 400 acre organic farm nestled in the hills of Valley Center, northeast of San Diego, is a local supplier of organic citrus, avocados, berries, and vegetables. Though the farm has been in the family for over 50 years, the beginnings of the organic operation began in 2002 with the two Stehly brothers.
The first stop on the farm was the chicken wagon, the one that gets moved around to keep the food interesting for the chickens (food which includes vegetable scraps from the Stehly Farms organic fields). These chickens don’t mind munching on broccoli or beets, and their chicken wagon is closed up at night to keep them safe from prowling coyotes and other predators. Yep, pretty happy chickens!
These chickens’ eggs, which the Stehly’s sell at their farm stands, come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, with deep orange yolks, truly pastured eggs. We’re not talking the anemic supermarket eggs here!
We climbed aboard a long wagon pulled by one of the farm’s tractors to tour the many acres of avocados and oranges. The Stehlys sell their avocados and citrus not only at their farm stands, but also at several of the local natural food markets and to locally-inspired restaurants. They’ve installed water reclamation systems and pumps throughout the farm to re-use irrigation water from their many wells, they use solar panels to provide their own electricity, and they create their own fuel (biodiesel) for their delivery trucks, farm vehicles, and personal vehicles by re-using fry oil from the restaurants they deliver to. They are definitely walking the walk and talking the talk when it comes to sustainability and being green.
From the sheep and their lambs . . .
to the new chicks getting ready to grow big enough to enter the chicken wagon . . .
to the reluctant sow hiding out in her “dog house” (it was HOT that day), these animals are living the life of humane living: well cared for, organic food (no GMOs here!), shelter from the elements and from predators, and a natural environment to live, grow, and play in.
Our next stop was the blueberry fields. The hard part was to fill our trays with blueberries and not eat them all, one blueberry in the tray, two in the mouth . . . it became very quiet!
We also had the chance to pick navel oranges, stuffing our bags as full as we could! And we toured their packing facilities where each box of avocados and oranges is labeled by their up-to-date equipment so it can be traced back to the exact part of the farm it was gathered from. It was awesome to see the automation that worked so well with organic farming.
As if bags of oranges and baskets of blueberries wasn’t enough, we had our choice of other great organic vegetables to take home: leeks, chard, carrots, all sorts of herbs. . . What a haul! Summer is winding down and for many parts of the country these fresh summertime treats will go away.
So before summer is over, head to your local farmers market or farm stand and support local produce and your local economy. And try to take a farm tour. It’ll make your day!
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