On Good Land:
The Autobiography of an Urban Farm
By Michael Ableman
144 pages Chronicle Books, 1998
Book reviewed by the Library Journal:
Fairview Gardens is a 12-acre organic farm in Goleta, CA (suburban Santa Barbara), surrounded by housing developments, highways and encroaching urban sprawl. This self-sufficient farm, which employs 15 people and grosses over $350,000 annually, produces 100 varieties of fruits, vegetables, milk, eggs, free-range chickens, goats and other animals for over 500 families. With sensitivity and wit, Ableman recounts the 15 years he has spent developing Fairview Gardens, as he learned to operate an organic farm, countered community opposition, and ultimately gained widespread support. Fairview Gardens has become so successful that it attracts thousands of visitors from around the country and interest from as far away as London and Sydney; in 1994, it was bought by a nonprofit organization and placed in public trust to remain as a working organic farm and education enterprise called The Center for Urban Agriculture. A delightful book about the role of urban agriculture and its importance to the community.
The Center for Urban Agriculture
598 N. Fairview Ave.
Goleta, CA 93117 USA
BEYOND ORGANIC tells the story of this amazing farm and its long battle to survive in the face of rapid suburban development. It explores the efforts of Ableman and his staff to diversify the farm, open it to educational tours for thousands of people -- especially schoolchildren -- and defend it against angry neighbors, hostile public officials and developers eager to re-zone the land for condominiums.
The Center for Urban Agriculture at Fairview Gardens is situated on a 100-year-old working organic farm in the heart of suburban Goleta, California. The farm's twelve acres are all that remain of a vast rancho that once stretched from the foothills to the Pacific. Today Fairview Gardens is, as National Geographic Magazine described it, "an agricultural oasis in the midst of suburbia," surrounded by homes, businesses, banks and shopping centers.
The farmland is owned by the non-profit Center, which has placed it under an agricultural conservation easement. This preserves Fairview Gardens as a sustainable organic farm in perpetuity and allows it to continue its vital educational programs.
Our Mission is to:
- Preserve the agricultural heritage of this 100-year-old farm;
- Provide the local community with fresh, chemical-free fruits and vegetables;
- Demonstrate the economic viability of sustainable agricultural methods for small farm operations;
- Research and interpret the connections between food, land stewardship and community well-being; and
- Nurture the human spirit through educational programs and public activities at the farm.
All our food is grown without pesticides, synthetic fertilizers or herbicides, and in ways that sustain and regenerate the soil. In the mild climate of Southern California, the fields and orchards yield a year-round harvest of nearly 100 different fruits, vegetables and flowers.
Fairview Gardens maintains a mature avocado orchard, five varieties of peaches, plus apricots, apples, citrus, plum, nectarine and cherimoya trees, among others. The farm is famous for white asparagus, baby artichokes and strawberries. Other annual crops range from winter squash to corn to a dozen varieties of peppers and tomatoes.
Fairview Gardens farm is self-sustaining through the sale of its products and supplies food in the following ways:
Retail Store and Produce Stand
Most of our food is marketed inside the farm gate. The on-site produce stand features an information kiosk and supplies a full range of organic fruits, vegetables, flowers, eggs, honey, selected grocery items, and freshbaked bread. Cooking demonstrations and food tastings are also offered.
The farm's bounty is laid out at several farmers' markets each week in Santa Barbara and throughout Southern California.
We currently supply a small number of restaurants with some of our specialty items.
We wholesale approximately 25,000 pounds of fruit per year from our two acres of Haas, Fuerte and Rincon avocados.
Community Supported Agriculture
CSA is a form of social agriculture that brings consumers and farmers together in a relationship of mutual support. CSA members pay a fixed amount each year. In exchange, they receive a weekly share of the harvest, usually enough to supply a couple or small family with most of their produce during the 36-week season from March to November.
Guided Farm Visits
Local schools bring approximately 3,500 children to the farm each year; guided visits for adults include tours/ tastings, lectures and classes. A limited number of 3 to 5-day programs are also offered.
Maps for a self-guided tour are available at the information kiosk, giving all visitors the opportunity to walk the farm and learn about its history, crop varieties, and organic farming methods. A series of plaques interpret such features as orchards, row crops, the salad garden, compost area, insects, soil regeneration and the historic farmhouse. At our information kiosk, located at our produce stand, visitors may also obtain farm news and information about community events.
Programs give students with developmental, learning and emotional disabilities the opportunity to work outdoors on the farm.
Farm events feature nationally recognized speakers, musicians, and chefs such as David Grower, Wes Jackson, Wendell Berry, Kenny Loggins and Alice Waters.
Internships train individuals who aspire to learn the philosophy and practice of sustainable agriculture to become successful organic farmers.
We provide consulting and garden installations for schools, hospices and other institutions. Examples of our successes include the ten-acre Midland School Farm and Gardens in Los Olivos, California; a garden and curriculum at Goleta Valley Junior High School and the kitchen gardens at Heath House, a Santa Barbara residence for people living with AIDS.
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