Author Topic: Starting a farm in Southern California  (Read 1275 times)

JCorte

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Starting a farm in Southern California
« on: November 17, 2023, 04:08:17 PM »
Iíve posted previously about an old avocado orchard we are restoring in Fallbrook.
https://tropicalfruitforum.com/index.php?topic=49059.0

This post is about the first property we bought a couple of miles away.  We refer to this property as the Farm and the second as the Orchard.

In May of 2020, we found a 16 acre property in San Diego County to start our family farm.  We had been looking at farm properties on and off since 2006.  There are really nice farms for sale, but anything with a decent house and mature trees come at a premium.  We were looking for a diamond in the rough where we could build value over time through sweat equity.

The previous owner had cleared the flat area at the top of the property which I think is about 4 acres.  They put a tiny house trailer on it and put up solar panels and a little shed.  The structures are not built well.  Scott put some temporary supports in areas that were falling apart.  We will rebuild, but for now weíre focusing on the land. 

We are hooked up to city water for irrigation, but one of the first things we invested in was a well.  They had to drill twice because the first hole collapsed.  The well is 490 feet deep and we get about 35 gallons per minute. 

Most of the property has been left undisturbed and is covered with natives.  Itís completely overgrown and thereís lots of dead underbrush and old trees that need pruning and lots of love.  We have to clear trails to access the property and thereís a lot of poison oak. 
There is a seasonal creek that flows for half the year and when the rainy season starts in the fall, the property comes to life.  When we first visited the property in early May, we could hear the creek flowing from the top of the hill.  There wasnít any access to see it, but it was one of the main reasons we decided to buy it that day.

For those not familiar with the climate in Southern California, we usually donít get any rain from late spring until the fall around November.  Thatís the biggest challenge to farming here.  The natives have adapted and go dormant during the summer months, so the property seems so dry especially after the creek dries up around the beginning of July.

Our goal is to develop our farm using concepts of agroecology and utilize rainwater harvesting techniques to try and be as efficient with water as possible.  We are working to restore the native ecosystem, grow a diversity of food, and co-create a beautiful farm with nature.

Janet

JCorte

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Re: Starting a farm in Southern California
« Reply #1 on: November 17, 2023, 04:09:51 PM »
One of the first things Iíd like to share is an example of the difference you can make by harvesting rainwater.

This is a picture of an area we thought would be a good spot for a pond taken June 2020.  Scott used an excavator to dig out the space.





These pics were taken this past winter.  Scott is in the upper right so it gives an idea of the size of the pond.  In the second picture you can see where we are channeling rainwater into the pond.




This third picture is on the other side of the pond, Scottís in the same spot as previous pictures.

« Last Edit: November 17, 2023, 04:18:50 PM by JCorte »

JCorte

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Re: Starting a farm in Southern California
« Reply #2 on: November 17, 2023, 04:42:35 PM »
This is the flat area of the farm when you first enter the property, pic was taken June of 2020.


On this flat section, we laid out 8 swales on contour using a Bunyip water level.  So basically, each row is at the same elevation to capture water and prevent runoff.  Scott rented an excavator and with the help of our son, Eric, they formed the swales for planting.  This was done during the middle of summer in over 100F. 






« Last Edit: November 17, 2023, 04:44:34 PM by JCorte »

K-Rimes

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Re: Starting a farm in Southern California
« Reply #3 on: November 17, 2023, 04:52:26 PM »
So cool to see this. Keep posting!

JCorte

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Re: Starting a farm in Southern California
« Reply #4 on: November 17, 2023, 05:16:05 PM »
After the swales were formed that first summer, we sowed over a couple hundred pounds of cover crop seeds before the rainy season started in fall.  This ended up being a huge waste, the birds and rabbits ate it all.  Weíve learned to rely on the natives and weeds for groundcover and chop and drop.

The first winter we drove out to the farm almost every time it rained to observe how the rainwater flowed on the property and if the swales would capture and hold the runoff.   

The main access trails that we cleared on the native parts of the property were also formed into mini swales on contour.

These 2 pics are of the swales at the top.




These are trails through the property, mini swales




We were pretty excited and surprised by how much rain the swales were collecting.  We still try to drive out to the properties whenever it rains to observe and figure out how we can improve. 
« Last Edit: November 17, 2023, 06:24:46 PM by JCorte »

JCorte

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Re: Starting a farm in Southern California
« Reply #5 on: November 17, 2023, 05:30:56 PM »
This picture is taken from the bottom of the swales giving a view of the contour lines.


First summer after planting 2021


October 2021


March 2023


Bananas and some plants got beaten up and we lost a lot of mangoes this past long, cold, wet winter.  Looking back from the beginning though we've come a long way.
« Last Edit: November 17, 2023, 06:29:34 PM by JCorte »

JCorte

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Re: Starting a farm in Southern California
« Reply #6 on: November 17, 2023, 05:54:41 PM »
There's more I can post about and share if there's interest, but it takes time to go through photos, etc, so don't want to write just for myself.  I've got lot's of plants to take care of. ;D

Janet

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Re: Starting a farm in Southern California
« Reply #7 on: November 17, 2023, 05:59:30 PM »
Janet, beautiful layout and now growth beginning vey well done concrats 8)

elouicious

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Re: Starting a farm in Southern California
« Reply #8 on: November 17, 2023, 06:06:41 PM »
Janet!

Your level of work on both the orchard and the farm are stunning!

Please keep posting pics!

SD Dan

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Re: Starting a farm in Southern California
« Reply #9 on: November 17, 2023, 09:50:54 PM »
Wow Janet thatís amazing, thanks for sharing!

Itís cool to see your progress and strategies in our dry climate, please keep on sharing!

fishie

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Re: Starting a farm in Southern California
« Reply #10 on: November 18, 2023, 01:31:55 AM »
Thatís amazing. Itís come a long way already!
- Lucas

Finca La Isla

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Re: Starting a farm in Southern California
« Reply #11 on: November 18, 2023, 06:13:07 AM »
Wonderful.  Hopefully it will be inspiring to others in the area.
Congratulations.
Peter

SHV

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Re: Starting a farm in Southern California
« Reply #12 on: November 18, 2023, 10:23:33 AM »
Looking good Janet.  I can certainly appreciate the amount of work put into the land and supporting infrastructure.  Lord knows there are innumerable challenges with starting a farm in SoCA, with water sourcing at the absolute top of my list. Congrats on locating a solid water source.  I had to drill 1200 ft to locate water at 20 gpm.  Yes, dry farming is possible with ground covers, improved soil health, and permaculture practices for certain types of plantings.  If youíre trying to grow subtropicals like mangos and avocado (among many other rare fruit species) in our environment, itís near impossible without water supplementation.   I always chuckle when FL forum members mention drought conditions when we survive without rain for 7-8 months of the year.  The 1 inch last night was an unexpected albeit appreciated deluge.
For your pond, do you allow that water to settle down to your water table or do you pump some it out to storage for later use?

Chandler_Gardener

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Re: Starting a farm in Southern California
« Reply #13 on: November 18, 2023, 02:30:28 PM »
Thanks for posting this, I think it's a dream for a lot of people

seng

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Re: Starting a farm in Southern California
« Reply #14 on: November 18, 2023, 06:47:31 PM »
 If you can stock the pond with fish and raise chicken and duck, that is my dream as well.

roblack

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Re: Starting a farm in Southern California
« Reply #15 on: November 18, 2023, 07:36:34 PM »
Beautiful transformation! The pond looks serene. Congratulations, and thanks for sharing. Following =)

Greg A

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Re: Starting a farm in Southern California
« Reply #16 on: November 19, 2023, 12:25:24 AM »
Janet, Thanks for sharing about the process and for taking the time to go through all the photos. I'm curious if you have any interest in dumping wood chips between the rows of trees, or do you plan to plant there?
gregalder.com/yardposts/

johnb51

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Re: Starting a farm in Southern California
« Reply #17 on: November 19, 2023, 08:37:02 AM »
I can imagine the thrill and inspiration (joy) of seeing your land come back to life.  I get excited over one little tree or plant!  ;D  Yes, keep sharing with pictures whenever you can.  (I love to see the mountains in the background too.  I miss the mountains living here.  Everybody loves to hate California, but it's a special place, in spite of current politics and all other issues.)
« Last Edit: November 19, 2023, 05:15:05 PM by johnb51 »
John

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Re: Starting a farm in Southern California
« Reply #18 on: November 19, 2023, 12:35:22 PM »
We need more Humans getting after it like this !!
Thank you for sharing a seat on the ride with Yall
Cheers
"Flowers always make people better, happier and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul.'
-Luther Burbank

fliptop

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Re: Starting a farm in Southern California
« Reply #19 on: November 19, 2023, 05:09:25 PM »
Janet, WOW! Awesomeness🤩

Will the pond hold water year round? Ducks are really messy. Messiest animals we ever kept. They soil water like party animals destroying a hotel room.

Are you going to replace the mangos with more mangos or something else?

I hope you keep updating this thread, it's amazing what you're doing!

Ken Bee

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Re: Starting a farm in Southern California
« Reply #20 on: November 20, 2023, 06:32:55 PM »
Hi Janet,

The farm looks great, I especially like the pond.  It takes so much work and resources to run a farm.  I wonder how many people here have a property dedicated to growing fruit in the Fallbrook/Bonsall/Escondido/Valley Center area?

Ken

simon_grow

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Re: Starting a farm in Southern California
« Reply #21 on: November 21, 2023, 10:47:04 AM »
Janet, this is an awesome project your family is working on. Seems like you did a lot of research on how best to collect and recover water so thatís excellent planning on your part. Careful planning, in regard to what type of fruit tree to plant where will also be critical. Please keep posting updates on your awesome farm project!

Simon

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Re: Starting a farm in Southern California
« Reply #22 on: November 21, 2023, 05:23:54 PM »
Janet, so impressive. I can relate to all the challenges and hard work as I have put in about 1.5 acres of orchard on my home property just south of you in Bonsall over the past 3 years. For me the two limiting resources have been time and of course water. I have a well that has covered my needs so far but they are more modest than what your acreage will require. Looking at your projects makes me jealous and exhausted for all the possibilities.

NateTheGreat

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Re: Starting a farm in Southern California
« Reply #23 on: November 21, 2023, 06:28:35 PM »
Why is water such an issue down there? I looked up the city rates, and it's about the same pricing as in the Bay Area.

K-Rimes

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Re: Starting a farm in Southern California
« Reply #24 on: November 21, 2023, 06:50:50 PM »
Why is water such an issue down there? I looked up the city rates, and it's about the same pricing as in the Bay Area.

It's one thing to water a small 1/4 acre plot, entirely another to do 1 acre of orchard +. Temps are MUCH higher, and humidity MUCH lower than bay area.

Plus all the maintenance of an orchard irrigation set-up.