Column: ‘Farmer D’ transplants family, philosophy to Encinitas
A few months ago, my family and I left Oakland to come and live on the former Ecke Ranch property in Encinitas so that I could serve as the Ranch Development Director for the Leichtag Foundation.
My primary role is stewarding the agricultural vision for the 67.5 acres of land with the goal of preserving this important and iconic agricultural property as a tool for education, innovation and community building.
People, like plants, experience a bit of transplant shock when they are moved from one location to another and begin to set roots in new ground. Thankfully, the Encinitas community is like a fertile, rich soil, teeming with microbes and beneficial organisms that are working together to provide nourishment to the seeds that blow in and set root in this special place.
My wife, Stephanie Bernstein, and two children, Tilden and Sibley, are enjoying living on the farm and getting to know the many beautiful places and faces in our neighborhood. We are so lucky to have one of the best YMCAs across the street, a magnificent Botanic Garden next door and wonderful schools, restaurants and beaches for our family to enjoy. We really couldn’t have landed in a more perfect place for our interests in healthy living, farming, yoga and spiritual community.
It has also been inspiring to join the effort of active citizens and the City Council to re-imagine what urban agriculture could look like here through the urban agriculture and urban forest initiatives under way. We have an amazing opportunity to build on the city’s agricultural heritage and be innovative in how we support and celebrate our farmers, educators and social entrepreneurs.
For the past 15 years I have been providing agricultural consulting to master planned community developers, public institutions, private individuals and nonprofit organizations.
After about two years of consulting with The Leichtag Foundation on their vision for the property, it became clear that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that brings together all of my passions: sustainable agriculture, food justice, community building, social entrepreneurship and philanthropy, all rooted in Jewish values.
For two decades, I have been working in the sustainable agriculture and food justice arena with strong roots in biodynamic farming and social entrepreneurship. Some of my experiences include managing organic farms, operating a frozen organic pizza business and falafel food truck, running a horticulture and landscaping vocational training program at a youth prison, founding a nonprofit Jewish farming organization, developing the Farmer D line of gardening products, and opening a retail urban farm store and online store at FarmerD.com.
The goal of all these endeavors and the essence of what drives me every day is working to create a more just and sustainable food system that honors and supports the farmer, enriches the land and improves the health of society.
Writing my first book, “Citizen Farmers — The Biodynamic Way to Grow Healthy Food, Build Thriving Communities and Give Back to the Earth,” was a way to get this message out in hopes of inspiring readers to grow something and take action in their lives to make positive change for all.
I have dreamed for many years of raising my children on a farm in a place with natural beauty in close proximity to culture and community. I could never have imagined a more perfect situation and feel very blessed to have been transplanted to the beautiful city of Encinitas to work with such an inspiring and generous organization as the Leichtag Foundation.
This is a dream opportunity to help create a place that can be a living example for people to enjoy and learn from for generations to come, while honoring the Leichtag’s legacy and generous gift to this community.
One of our first big initiatives here includes seeding a new community farm on the property that will grow healthy food, support communities in need and bring people together for educational programs and seasonal celebrations.
I look forward to writing this monthly column as a way to share stories from the farm, provide seasonal gardening tips and announce opportunities to come grow with us.