Suzies “Farm”

Today we decided to finally get dressed and get ready at 930am to go down to Imperial Beach and check out Suzie’s Farm. Their second Saturday of the month tour was today, 10am. Yep, thirty minutes to get all the way down to the border… I was crossing my fingers that we didn’t show up and everyone would be gone. Out of my fear, I made a deal with the kids though that if that happened we would go to the zoo and still do something fun for all our travels. They were content with this deal.

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Honestly it only took us maybe, 40 minutes to get to the location. I was getting a little nervous because I kept seeing signs for the border crossing and many MANY border patrol officers patrolling the streets. I definitely wasn’t in “Kansas” any more. We drove through a nice little development of houses, stopped at a stop sign and suddenly everything was open fields. A few junk yards, some dilapidated horse ranches and then the sign for the Tijuana Estuary. Again I thought to myself, “man I should have brought our passports so we can get home!”, we were that close!  We turned on Sunset and saw a couple cars parked up ahead. My GSP was yelling at me that we were approaching our destination so I turned it off, despite only noticing a veggie stand and no signs for the actual farm. There was a sign that said Suzie’s Farm Stand, so I knew even if we weren’t in the right place they could direct me there. I saw a car turn down a little driveway across from the produce stand so I followed it. it wound around passed a few more properties with horses and then we pulled up to some green houses with a cute little sign out front directing us where to park for “Suzie’s Farm”.

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As I pulled to the side to park I saw a few different groups of people walking around on the property. Because we were late, the kids and I decided to sneak up to the bigger group hoping to blend in… turns out a young gentleman guiding a smaller group around the corner saw us and called us over. He was very friendly and welcomed my kids into his tutorial right away… Poor man didn’t know what he was signing up for.

Right off the bat my two older kids started asking questions like , “how do you spell that” and “are there bugs in this?” or giving personal examples and stories of what we have at our house like, “we tried growing that but mommy killed them all.” Yes, those exact words were said. I felt like it became the Kaelob and Haylee show, not the “lets walk around and learn about Suzie’s Farm” show. Our tour guide Danny was SO easygoing and was very flexible with their tangents.

The first part of the tour that we missed was a little walk through of their mushroom “shack”. It was a small designated area for growing Oyster Mushrooms. At the end of the tour they had bagged ‘kits’ so you can grow your own. One of the guides we met up with towards the end said she loved this type of mushroom the best because “it was buttery and lighter in flavor”. I might just have try cooking them….now growing them, that’s a whole different story.

Next we walked over to their soil station. They had LARGE barrels of soil mixed together for the kids to dig their hands (or if they were my kids *arms*) into. They had trays of plastic starter racks on the table. He showed us how they spread the soil into each individual slot, stick a seed in and cover it. These trays then get watered and cared for by hand until the plant sprouts and can be pulled out and transplanted in the  ‘pastures’. He discussed in length with my children (and the rest of the group) the fact that the soil was made up of Pearl Lite and Peet Moss.  It took a few different articulated attempts and spelling the words once through for my children to understand exactly what “Peet Moss” and “Pearl Lite” were. (Gardening Parent FAIL)

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Once {we} were all on the same page, we walked over to the area with the little green houses (they called them Chicos) growing the tiny seedlings. We walked in as he was discussing the fact that these seedlings were Lettuce and that lettuce typically likes cooler climates. I looked around and everyone was already fanning themselves and gasping for air. My kids had each already complained about the heat at least twice and we had been in there less than ten seconds! We couldn’t believe what he was telling us until we walked to the greenhouse next door.  This greenhouse carried sage and onion in it and was closed up nice and tight. He opened the plastic flap to the side for us to walk in and a gust of hot musty smelly scorching air blew out into our faces. We could barely take two steps inside. We did notice in the few moments peeking through the doorway, that these seedling trays were caged in a wire and wood frame. He explained that they are having trouble with mice eating their seeds right now and the wooden frames were helping them save the seedlings. He went on to discuss that they don’t like to use poisons or any kind of chemical repellant for mice and rats but instead they hire falconers out in the pastures to help cut down on the rodent problem.  Who knew we had local falconers?? That’s pretty awesome, I would pay to see that event become part of the tour!

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Next was a larger greenhouse, again filled with stifling hot air that my children had to complain about. Each tray of sprouting plants had a popsicle stick in it with the name of the plant and handwritten date on them. Our friendly guide explained to us that although in the larger greenhouse the plants are on tables high off the ground to avoid the mice problem, now they battled fungus. They were currently experimenting with their watering schedules to try and find a process that helps reduce the fungus but increase plant growth. We touched baby cauliflower leaves, bell peppers and eve tasted some onion ‘roots’ which my children promptly spit out all over the ground.

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This part of the facility was so interesting to me because I assumed with such a high volume of produce coming out of their farm that it would resemble something more like a factory and everything would be very modern and technical.  It was pleasantly surprising to see that they used a lot of tricks of the trade that gardeners from my grandmother’s generation used.  It really did have the feeling of a family-run business and was very evident that everyone loved being there. Each tour guide worked on a different part of the farm and was very informative, friendly and passionate about educating each group of people about Suzie’s Farm and their goals for the community. I loved the little handwritten, delicate sticks to date and organize the plants. I love that their soil components were simple ingredients that I could pick up myself or that my grandmother has used for years. I loved that they use ladybugs to reduce their aphid population problems instead of pesticides.  I loved seeing handmade chicken wire frames around seedlings that resembled a make-shift “cage” I had to build around one of my beds recently. I felt connected to their production and like I was a part of their mission because we had similar techniques for gardening in common, and here they were a blooming local business successfully running over 60 acres of farmland; Truly inspiring.

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Another inspiring aspect to their farm is a little area they called the “Farm School”. The lovely family from Suzie’s Farm have set up this amazing program specifically for home schooled children where they can come, plant veggies and herbs and play with the animals while learning. They had little garden beds set up and covered with protective covering and we could see little baby plants thriving underneath. They had two hen houses and a bunny play yard (but no bunnies in sight). My kids loved this area. It was creative and organized with care.

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On the other side of the Farm School were the old hen houses and breeding cages. Our guide explained that Suzie’s Farm just bought sixty acres of land across the street and were currently in the process of moving the chickens there. They have over 65 chickens who happen to be about 35 different breeds. Some chicken “farmers” tend to stick to one specific proven “laying” breed to make the most money off their massive laying production, but Suzie’s Farm wants to educate as well as profit so they have collected various breeds over the years rather than just sticking to the one breed that could help make them money. Our guide expressed that the chickens have only recently begun laying again (thank God I thought it was only my chickens!). He said he had collected about six dozen eggs yesterday of various colors, shapes and sizes!  Along with their veggie produce and herbs they sell their eggs at the local farm stands.  I love that their variety creates a beautifully colorful carton of eggs.

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He also told us how they use their chickens for more than just egg laying. They dont keep them cooped up in the cages all day, instead they let the chickens loose out in the growing pastures and bring out mobile hen houses to the fields so that they can peck and scratch in the fields and turn the soil. They also like using their poop int the soil so that when the ground is ready it is full of so many nutrients. He told us of a unique story from when they let the chickens out in the pepper field and suddenly all the yolks of the eggs were red.  They sent an egg out to be tested by a local lab and found out that it was full of serotonin and that was causing the color change.  Have you ever noticed that organic eggs from your own chickens or a local farm are much brighter and richer in color? That is because of the added nutrients in the diet of those chickens. They aren’t just eating grain they are getting protein from bugs and plants and everything else they find while scratching around in the dirt.  So in case you were wondering why organic chicken eggs are different in color; this is why!

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Towards the end of the tour we walked over and peeked down the hill to their muddy (from recent rain storm) composting area.  They are luckily surrounded by friendly horse farms who donate their horse manure for composting purposes.  They also have old peet moss and other components tossed into their mounds of steaming compost.  When the kids heard the big dirt piles they wanted to climb on were full of poop they quickly changed their minds. (Phew saved from that one!)

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Last but not least we walked through a very cold greenhouse that was soaking and sprouting seeds/beans.  One building had wheat grass growing, almost suspended in the air with the roots peeking through the holes in the bottom and the tall vibrantly green grass reaching high to the ceiling. My kids couldn’t keep their hands off the grass and thankfully the guides were very accommodating and just smiled at their excitement to be so hands on.  In the next building over were the large buckets full of corn kernels and sunflower seeds and beans that were soaking and sprouting.  Again the guides allowed my kids to dig in them up to their elbows while they were discussing the process. Before leaving this structure the overhead sprinklers went off and the kids squealed with excitement as they danced in the “rain”… oh the joy of being a kid again.

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We walked back to the start of the tour and they had a whole lineup of fresh produce for us to fill our reusable bags (that we brought from home) with.  They had onions, spicy salad mix, cabbage, kale and parsley today.  They sold t-shirts, hats, stickers, cartons of eggs and mushroom kits as well.

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Oh! And I almost forgot the kids favorite part…. No “farm” is complete without a farm dog right? Well, be sure to meet Homer when you go down because he was the hit of the whole tour for the kids. He came out of somewhere while we were mingling and filling our bags with goodies and the kids were elated to see an animal they could hang all over and Homer happily obliged.

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In the end my kids were a little too young for the thrill of how-to in the planting and growing scheme of things, and I think I set them up for slight disappointment by saying we were going to a “farm”.  They were anxiously anticipating a real live farm with cows and ducks and pigs and well… farm animals.  My oldest, who is 8, was the only one who really learned anything about gardening and asked if we could do something similar at our home… what was this you ask?

“Mom can we make big giant composting poop piles at our house for our garden?? Maybe then all our plants won’t die after you plant them…”

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For more information on Suzie’s Farm go to : http://suziesfarm.com

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. journeytomoo
    Feb 13, 2013 @ 12:45:25

    Hey Kaelob had a legitimate question!! hahaha 😀

    Reply

    • spunkysalymander
      Feb 13, 2013 @ 12:46:57

      lol dang you got to this fast! did you see it with the pictures I just put in haha. yeah well, I refuse to believe that a pile of poop is what stands between me and healthy growing vegetables ! 😛

      Reply

  2. celestedimilla
    Mar 23, 2013 @ 16:37:26

    Hey Rabecca! Since you started following my blog I wanted to check out your blog and say, “Hi.” Despite the fact that I used to live in San Diego, I’ve never heard of Suzie’s Farm. I loved what you wrote about them! What a great family outing. Awesome blog, I look forward to reading more of your posts.

    Reply

    • spunkysalymander
      Mar 23, 2013 @ 16:38:56

      Aww thanks 🙂 I’ve grown up here and had never heard of it either. Turns out I’ve bought veggies from their stand at the local farmers market but never been down to their actual farm !

      Reply

  3. Vixen
    Mar 25, 2013 @ 12:12:52

    I’ve never heard of them either and I have lived here for nearly 20 years. I will definitely go check it out though and take the grandkids with me!

    Reply

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