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Friday, August 31, 2012

Farmtastic (Aug. 31, 2012)

As you know, gardening has been on my radar this year. I joined a community garden, and I’ve been fascinated as I’ve watched food—real, edible food!—grow on our plants. My friend Karmyn invited me to tour an organic farm today and I accepted. It was terrific.

First, let’s take a moment to marvel that a farm could be as close as fifteen miles from the city center. Who knew? We visited Suzie’s Farm in Imperial Beach, which is wedged into a space bordered by the Tijuana River Estuary, residential neighborhoods, freeways, and Mexico. Quite a varied intersection, but I find it charming that the farm has such different neighbors.

We arrived before ten and the sun already was strong. We threw on hats and grabbed our bags, as we’d been told we could pick our own vegetables. Our tour guide was a friendly woman named Leslie, who splits her time between the farm and the opera stage. Yes, that’s right. A natural combination! Well, why not? We all have different sides to our personalities, and having been a starving artist at one point, I can relate to the necessity of a side job. Leslie certainly has a passion for the many crops she showed us, and her enthusiasm made our adventure even more fun.

The farm, which was established four years ago, grows more than one hundred different crops each year. That includes forty different kinds of tomatoes. Just a sec. What? I didn’t know that forty kinds of tomatoes existed. (Yes, I’m new to all this. Be patient with me.) Wow. In addition to seeing all kinds of things growing, we also got to talk to some chickens. They lay eggs in their cute little hen houses, and when we approached their large fenced-in area, they bobbed toward us (convinced we were bearing edibles). We checked out all their different feathered outfits (some were white, some reddish-brown, some black-and-white). The kids in our group named them. These chickens are the most valuable employees of this farm, according to Leslie. They scratch the earth, breaking it up and aerating it. They also gobble up old plants, helping to prepare the ground for the next crop to be planted.

The number of plants we saw amazed me. The rows stretched out into the distance, meeting Eucalyptus trees and sunflowers. (The sunflowers are not merely decorative. The bees are attracted to the flowers, and they help pollinate tomato plants nearby. I love how much harmony there is in the natural world. Note to self: be more like bees.)

Although tractors turn the earth and prepare the land for crops, each plant is hand-planted. Many people are needed to hand-plant the farm, which was seventy acres until recently, when they acquired more land. Are you wondering which crops we saw? Of course you are. And I will tell you. We saw pumpkins, squash, eggplant, tomatoes, basil, cucumber, sweet peppers, hot peppers, kale, okra and others. We got to pick samples of most of these crops. I had never seen so many peppers before. I’m ecstatic when my little pepper plants at the community garden produce one pepper! Remember, I’m new to this. Seeing thousands upon thousands of peppers all at once is pretty exciting when your current yield can be counted on one hand. We picked tons of peppers, and a few of the kids found giant squashes the size and shape of the sturdy wooden club Fred Flintstone carried.

I love how plants sometimes throw us a curve ball. Most apples look the same, for example, but every once in a while you’ll get one that is an unusual twist on its usual form. Today’s surprise was an eggplant shaped like a gathered satin purse. I was in awe:


As our tour ended, we lugged our full bags back to our cars. I felt like I could start my own salsa-making company with the peppers and tomatoes I’d gathered. Instead, I gave some to our good friend Rosa. The rest may become pico de gallo to bring to our neighbors’get-together. Check out the bounty I collected:

Today’s visit is inspiring me to give more love to my plot at the community garden. I need to dig some coffee grounds and Epsom salt into the dirt. Maybe I’ll sing to it. Maybe I could get farmer Leslie to sing opera to my plants to help them grow. Either way, I’m excited. Seeing things grow just does this to me.

Happy planting…


  1. Looks great (and tasted great too). Hey, any chance we could roast one of them chickens?

  2. No chance of that. Those chickens are hard-working members of the farm team. And although you've posted as Anonymous, I suspect that this suggestion is from my carnivorous hubby...