Leichtag-incubated nonprofit aims to help Farm Lab grow


A nonprofit incubated at the Leichtag Foundation property aims to lend a hand at the Encinitas Union School District’s Farm Lab.

The recently launched 10-acre Farm Lab, at 441 Quail Gardens Drive, is designed to give students a firsthand lesson in planting, growing and cooking produce. Plans also call for five acres of production crops that will primarily go to the school lunch program.

Under a recently agreed-on memorandum of understanding, the nonprofit — the name of which has yet to be announced — will help tend Farm Lab’s crops. As is typical, the memorandum of understanding is general and nonbinding, but could pave the way for a formal agreement.

“The memorandum of understanding is an intent to collaborate,” said Daron “Farmer D” Joffe, the nonprofit’s interim executive director. “Now what we need to do is figure out how much is involved and who pays for what — seeds, compost, labor and more.”

Joffe, who is also the development director of the Leichtag Foundation property, has overseen various agriculture projects at the 67-acre Leichtag site, which is across the street from Farm Lab. Such experience would come in handy at Farm Lab, district officials said.

“The nonprofit has an expert team of farmers with many years of experience,” said Mim Michelove, director of Farm Lab.

Farm Lab has about 1 1/2 acres of crops, and more are being planted. Plans show about five acres of crops.

“With this succession of crops, the nonprofit would be helping as needed,” Michelove said.

According to the memorandum of understanding, the district would tentatively pay the nonprofit $40,000 for farm management services, labor, farming equipment and vehicles during this school year. Michelove said this would be a good deal for the district.

“I would imagine they would be putting in more hours than a $40,000 farmer would,” Michelove said. She added: “To me, it shows their generosity and understanding of the farm.”

Michelove said the agreement is another example of the E3 group working together. E3, made up of the Encinitas Union School District, Leichtag Foundation and four other groups on Quail Gardens Drive and Saxony Road, formed last year to collaborate on education programming.

Besides helping Farm Lab, the nonprofit will oversee the Leichtag Foundation property’s community farm and a planned “food forest” — designed to provide fruits and vegetables to food banks and those in need. The nonprofit would also support agriculture initiatives around the community, according to Joffe.

The Encinitas school district board last week signed off on the memorandum of understanding. And the goal is to have a formal agreement in place sometime in the next few months.