People can’t help but resist change – it is in our nature. Most people go with what is comfortable or easy and focus more on what they have to give up, instead of what they have to gain. It’s a rarity to find people brave enough to embrace change. After speaking with Steve Reeb of Point Loma Farms in Valley Center, I can tell you firsthand that is not the case with the Reeb family.
For most farmers, farming has been in their family for generations. But to Steve’s family, it was something new. Originally from the seaside community of Point Loma, hence the farm’s namesake, the Reeb family has Steve to thank for getting them involved in agriculture. He graduated from UC Santa Cruz, earning a degree in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Agriculture. His interest in agriculture had him growing variations of micro and leafy greens for his family and taking small orders for local restaurants such as The Red Door and Tender Greens. After exhausting the small urban plots in the backyards of family and friends, Steve began looking for a farm to move their thriving business. “As a family we had been looking for a long time for property, and the Valley center property just happened to be the one. We weren’t specifically looking for property in Valley Center, but we are sure are glad that’s where we ended up!” Steve describes.
Steve, his wife and new baby, and his parents have been running Point Loma Farms on their 9 1⁄2 acre place in Valley Center for about five years now. He believes the best part of farming in San Diego County, especially North County, is the fact that farmers are located between two very large populations of people (LA and SD). Steve describes, “It really allows small growers to find a niche market to succeed in. As a farmer I feel you do not need to be afraid to try new things. San Diego is so unique in terms of our climate and large customer potential, that a grower can get very creative with a small piece of land to make a farm business work.”
Point Loma Farms currently grow organic vegetables, persimmons, avocados, and a variety of citrus. Or if you ask Steve, “a few of a lot of things.” A unique feature of Point Loma Farms is their crop zoning and rotating systems. Steve explains that the zones they have on their farm help them stay organized. “We have four zones where we grow our row crops on the farm, which are inter-planted between the grapefruit and persimmons. Each zone is equal in size and enables us to plan the quantities of our various crops. We can estimate the production, which is extremely helpful when we do sales,” Steve said. Typically they try to receive the commitments from their buyers, who are mainly restaurants, before they plant the variation of their vegetables. Confirmation from the restaurants dictates what to plant and how many plants they will need to satisfy their customers.
The Reeb family and one part-time employee run the show, even delivering product to their buyers. As Steve puts it, “I feel our working relationships with our buyers is very special because it is a direct connection. We grow it, pick it, pack it and deliver it. If there are ever any issues with the product or something the chefs would like to try, we can just talk face to face and figure it out.” The feedback and discussion also assist in dictating the product they will grow next. The Reeb family doesn’t have a fear of the unknown. If a buyer would like a certain type of vegetable or protein grown, within reason, the Reeb’s will do their best in trying it out. If it fails, they won’t grow it again or will figure out what needs to be done to make it successful the next time. Steve feels that it is that direct interaction that is vital to creating the connection of where and how food is grown. “It is translated to them by the product that is presented as an end result,” says Steve.
Among their groves, the Reeb’s also have laying hens who are placed in rotational pens. There are three separate rotational groups: the chicks, the not-quite-at-laying age hens, and then the aged laying hens. Point Loma supplies their buyers with fresh eggs and (eventually) fresh chicken. They also have a small herd of Nubian, Pygmy, and Nigerian goats that Steve explained will be used for milking and making cheese in the near future. One of their newer ventures is meat rabbits. They have two rows of hutches that house their New Zealand rabbits. These will be bred and then the offspring will be sold to local restaurants.
So what’s next for Point Loma Farms? Steve has a wide variety of plans, all of them being new ventures. He has seen an expanding market in blackberries, and plans to phase out some of the row crops and diving into growing three different varieties. As for long term plans, Steve sees the farm phasing into growing hops and producing wine grapes in the future. Because to the Reeb’s, progress is impossible without change.
BY TAYLOR ZUMSTEIN, SAN DIEGO COUNTY FARM BUREAU