By Seth Douglas of Lemonade Springs Farm
Lemonade Springs Farm is run by myself, Seth, and my partner, Kathleen. We are in our second full season. The farm is located in Watsonville, California, about a mile inland in the heart of the central coast’s commercial strawberry growing country.
We are reclaiming five acres of old strawberry land as a diversified, integrated farm. We raise a 200-bird flock of laying hens, have about an acre in row crops for market, CSA, wholesale and our farmstand, raise heritage breeds of pigs for pork (Tamworths and Berkshires) and raise meat chickens, ducks and rabbits. All our animals are kept on rotational grazing units on pasture.
Kathleen and I met in Portland, OR, where she graduated from and I dropped out of Reed College. I am full-time (and then some) on the farm; Kathleen works 20 hours a week at the Santa Cruz county library. Prior to Lemonade Springs, I started and ran the student farm at Reed, apprenticed on Vashon Island, and field managed a larger organic operation in the Ridgefield, WA area outside of Portland. I grew up in rural Alabama working on big ol’ farms.
Our farm is currently certified organic on the produce end of affairs, and non-certified “organic” for the rest of its goings on. We have been reasonably successful in our first season; we are still growing. This year may see us add additional acreage to breed more Tamworth pigs and raise more laying hens, and we will build on our own CSA, participate in the first year of a market oriented CSA with four other farms, work to begin building up a central coast meat producers co-op with Ecofarm, expand into a year-round famers market in the South Bay area in addition to our two Santa Cruz area markets, and continue to settle in to our new California home.
We are fortunate enough to farm family-owned land. Were that not the case, we would find it difficult to farm where we are, particularly in the current parched climate. I think we are a rare beastie of a farm in that while this is an outstandingly rich agricultural area, there are few diversified produce and livestock operations here; I can think of two others off the top of my head. Indeed, we’ve attained a measure of early success where other farms of similar size and opportunity have not in large part because of our focus on diversification.
Our location is also a study in contrasts; Dole grows about 300 acres of strawberries across the street from me. I mention this because it’s essential to what we are trying to do, which in clear terms is: to farm sustainably, in economic and physical terms for ourselves, and in ecological terms for our farm, our soil and our water; and to farm in a manner respectful and protective of our animals, our land and our community.