On Sunday, Oct. 8, the SLO City Farm will hold their first Annual Fall Harvest Festival at the Calle Joaquin Agricultural Reserve.
Off the beaten path at 1221 Calle Joaquin in SLO, behind the Madonna Shopping Center, the farm has been managed by the nonprofit Central Coast Grown [CCG] for the last three years. But, it has taken them awhile to smooth out the property’s rough edges and get programs in place.
Steven Marx, CCG Board President, explains that’ve had a lot of, “trial and error at the farm and in the organization,” in the time since signing a 20 year lease with the City, but they’re now in a position to “welcome the public out to their own land.”
Educational programs have been ongoing with gardens and co-operative classes from nearby Pacific Beach Continuation High School. As well there was a grand opening celebration and fair at the site three years ago. In general though, Marx said, members of the public haven’t been out at the farm on a daily basis.
“That’s just because the farmers are usually there to work 25 hours a day, not to be entertainers,” he joked.
Most of the farmers have one to two year subleases through the CCG, but Javier Magana, owner of Red Barn Farms has the largest area at the 19-acre reserve, with an five year lease, and has started supplying the San Luis Coastal Unified School District with produce. In fact he’s now planting as per their needs, an arrangement that ensures stability for both parties.
Red Barn will be offering their produce, along with the other tenants at an onsite Farmer’s Market Oct. 8. Visitors for the day can also get hayride tours to the back-acreage, and according to the organization’s announcement, visitors can also, “meet the farmers, and take part in planting and harvesting activities. Celebrate the opening of the ‘Pergola,’ the new onsite learning center….[with] cooking demos [by] Jerrod Cerniglia, [a booth by] Pacific Wildlife Care rescues, yoga with Terry Hooker,….and music by the Albert Jr. Band.”
CCG has also invited, “organizations who share a commitment to local sustainable urban agriculture: Solar Cookers, Seed Saver Exchange, Slow Money SLO, Empower SLO, and Glean SLO.”
The first 250 visitors to pay an $5 donation at the gate will receive a reusable commemorative bag to carry their anticipated purchases from the market. Kiddos will get one for free.
As former SLO Mayor Jan Marx noted while helping her husband “get the word out” about Sunday’s event, “the land being farmed by CCG has a long and somewhat controversial history, going back to Land Use and Circulation update of 1994 when City Council decided that each of the [three] properties in that area …would be preserved one half in agriculture as a condition of developing the other half.”
The City Farm is located on the half of the properties that were preserved, and Steven Marx said, the San Luis Ranch developers [on a recently approved development plan next door for the third site], “have been great supporters since we took on the lease.”
In fact they’re currently working on easements to share a new road to the less accessible portions of the CCG property.
“The origins of development in this area started out very controversially,” he added, “but there is nothing that we’re doing that’s controversial at the Farm. It’s a trust for the public.”
Photos courtesy of Steven Marx.