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Prime Pickings

SUMMER IN SAN DIEGO isn’t all beaches and boardwalks. It’s also the best time of the year to stroll the aisles of neighborhood farmers’ markets and roadside stands for locally harvested, summer-luscious fruits and veggies. (Please click here for a listing of the area's farmer's markets) What beats a just-picked, juicy strawberry? How about one grown without the use of noxious pesticides? The local farmers listed here grow a variety of crops——and they’re all organic. Much more than purveyors of pesticide-free produce, these San Diegans are forging innovative environmental and community initiatives that reap benefits for everyone.
——ONDINE BROOKS KURAOKA

Be Wise Organic Farm
Santa Fe Valley, San Pasqual Valley
858-756-3088; bewiseranch.com
An organic farmer for 30 years, Bill Brammer was instrumental in lobbying for certified organic standards. Last year, encroaching housing developments cut Brammer’s acreage from 800 acres to 200. But he takes it in stride, explaining that it’s more manageable now. A popular specialty is organic strawberries, a crop that absorbs pesticides when grown traditionally. Be Wise sells wholesale to Jimbo’s Naturally, Whole Foods and Ocean Beach People’s Organic Foods Market. Be Wise offers a subscription-based Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, in which you can pick up weekly or biweekly boxes of produce at specific drop-off points.

Tierra Miguel Farm
Pauma Valley
760-742-4213; tierramiguelfarm.org
An 85-acre educational farm and foundation overseen by director Beth Levendoski, Tierra Miguel offers farm-to-school programs, illuminating the productive possibilities of 10 square feet. The farm offers volunteer days, workshops and helps research local environmental issues. It also offers a CSA subscription program; members can visit the farm to work the crops.

Seabreeze Farm
Carmel Valley
858-481-0209; seabreezed.com
Stephenie Caughlin became an organic farmer in 1988. She says San Diego’s farmers are aging, so committed interest from younger folks is needed for organic farming to survive here. Her 2-acre, oceanview farm uses every inch and is home to migrating bee colonies. Caughlin, whose farm specializes in organic vegetables, flowers, fruit and herbs and offers a CSA program, is a self-professed mother hen to her customers. Fittingly, her hens now have 50 chicks underfoot; eggs will soon be a regular offering.

La Milpa Organica
Escondido
760-839-1111; milpaorganica.com
Farmer Barry Logan has cultivated 5 of his 20 available acres; the riparian oak forest and native chaparral remain as natural habitat. He sees his primary role as a steward of the soil, which the farm enriches with compost, worm castings and rock dust from volcanic seabeds to improve the crops’ mineral content. You may have enjoyed La Milpa’s gourmet salad greens at The Lodge at Torrey Pines, Nine-Ten, Tapenade, Michele Coulon, Spread and George’s at the Cove. His produce is available at farmers’ markets in La Mesa, Oceanside, Poway and Hillcrest.

Oakes Knoll Ranch
Fallbrook
760-728-9158; oakesknollranch@aol.com
George Oakes has used pesticide-free methods since the 11-acre farm’s beginning 23 years ago. Customers flock to his farmers’ market stand for his sweet baby carrots, melons, kumquats and dried figs——and buy persimmons and tangerines by the boxful. Christine Forster has been a volunteer with the farm for 10 years, as her mother was. She says, “If George doesn’t think it’s good enough, he won’t sell it. The Tahitian squash is the sweetest there is; people buy it and freeze it.” Find it at the Vista and Carlsbad farmers’ markets.

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