Earth Day, appropriately enough, was celebrated in the Earth Day way at Escondido’s Terra Madre Gardens.
“This is the first time we’re doing it,” said Jessica Sanchez, who co-owns the farm with her spouse David Solomon. “The farm has a lot to offer and wants the community to be involved.”
That meant following up its composting workshop at 9928 Protea Gardens Road by Old Highway 395 in North Escondido with an Earth Day celebration attracting upwards of 200 fellow travelers back to the earth.
Visitors to Mother Earth as Terra Madre translates, were there for fun, food and solidarity. “We’re friends of the farm,” mild-mannered Oceanside accountant Esmeralda Aldaz said. “We love it here. Jessica and David have put a lot of love, dedication and passion into this.”
Sanchez, 36, and Solomon, 38, moved to La Milpa in 2006. He was an advertising agency art director tired of the rat race. She was Titleist Golf international sales manager who felt unfulfilled.
“This originally was La Milpa Organica,” Sanchez said as an ad hoc reggae band serenaded the easily laid-back crowd. “Stone Brewing took over, and when Stone told us they didn’t want to focus on this anymore, we took over.”
The farm ran into tough competition from Mexico and larger farms locally, but found a saving grace in Stone Brewing, whose founders wanted to promote a farm-to-table culture at its World Bistro & Gardens at 1999 Citracado Parkway.
That was 2011 as Stone gathered no moss in taking over the farm lease and going for it with Sanchez and Solomon at the tiller. The rebranded Stone Farms grew what Solomon said was an edible forest and a fruit and vegetable museum.
Fruit-producing trees on the property include fig, dragonfruit, mango, guava, cherimoya, persimmon, lemon, lime, orange, tangerine, avocado, plum, nectarine, apple and peach. And the produce includes hops, herbs, beets, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, kale, cabbage, grapes, rhubarb, berries, bananas and even sugar cane
Stone also promoted a kind of agricultural tourism with events, tours and dinners served on the farm. Stone also lost money on the 19-acre venture. Stone divested itself of the farm in March. Sanchez and Solomon were allowed by the property owner to take charge of the acreage.
The couple — who live on the farm with their home-schooled kids Izcalle, 15, Ezra, 13 and Shakti, 4 — signed a two-year lease. They also created a gofundme campaign at to raise the $100,000 needed for start-up funding at https://www.gofundme.com/TerraMadre.
Terra Madre, or Mother Earth, is envisioned by the couple as a local growing resource with classes, community events, a Community supported Agriculture program delivering food baskets to subscribers and whatever else they can do to combine community with its food production.
“With La Milpa, it was a learning and experimental process,” Solomon said to reporter Pam Kragen. “With Stone, it was a corporation with everything done by the book. Now with Terra Madre, we’re taking elements of both worlds to create a sustainable farming model that can be successful in today’s environment.”
Terra Madre features perhaps the mother of all community organic farming mission statements to wit:
We are farmers, artisans, healers, educators and yogis who want to help create a better world and are dedicated to the betterment in our surroundings and in ourselves.
Our goals have always been to help bring about an awakening of consciousness that allows for the spreading of peace and love throughout the world.
We are creating a place that allows us to grow ideas to help promote home gardening, self-healing, healthy eating, exercise, artistic expression and happy living. Whether it be through attending a workshop, tasting our fruits & veggies or simply walking the gardens, every visitor is bound to have a magical experience.
For more information, visit http://www.terramadregardens.com.