Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Dinner & a movie: La Milpa Organica

A couple weeks ago, we had the opportunity to visit La Milpa Organica for a farm tour, pizza dinner, and a pre-screening of the film "The Real Dirt on Farmer John." The event was sponsored by the O.B. People's Food Co-op and San Diego Roots. Standing underneath the enormous oak tree at La Milpa Organica, surrounded by cultivated rows of greens, flowers, herbs, and corn, I was taken aback by the complexity of it all. “Life is here,” said another visitor. With four acres in production and a hundred or more crops, this was not the like the farms I had remembered from my drives through the midwest or the Central Valley of California. Here, every row was different, even within the rows, the crops changed within a couple feet of each other. There were greenhouses (stocked with seedlings), shaded areas, compost piles, mulching areas, owl nests, and bee boxes. “Build the box, and they will come,” said assistant farmer Julia, with the sound of the cars on I-15 whizzing by at 75 m.p.h. half a mile away. Even a miniature wetlands has been created near the herb garden to attract birds. As we toured the farm, we stopped to watch the baby chickens wandering through the rows of greens, and patted the goats on the heads, everyone laughing as a young one escaped to snack in the fields. Heirloom turkeys (which you can reserve for the holidays if you’re also willing to help “harvest” them) made a ruckus in their covered pen as we passed by.

The farm had its own supply of hippy-esque young people, dreads in place, sturdy crocs on their feet, as well as a mess of farm equipment, tools, crates, and personal belongings strewed about the buildings. Everyone who works full-time on the farm also lives there, and that includes two interns (who were excited about their grand plans for building a yurt near the squash garden), a couple families, and Barry himself, the owner and lead farmer. The chaos was balanced by the orderly straight lines of cultivated crops.
When asked what he would do if the crop failed, Barry answered that the plants that he and his team of farmers harvest are merely the biproduct of making soil. Crop failure is irrelevant to his larger purpose of preserving the land from development and maintaining it as agricultural land. I didn’t have the nerve to ask how he managed to get by on that philosophy, knowing that other organic farmers in the area are just barely getting by.The farm is not certified organic, but it is operated under organic standards just the same. Barry intends to make the farm a community center of sorts, accessible to those who are interested in learning about sustainable agriculture.

Dinner, which came after the tour, was complete with delicious pizzas, vegetarian sides, and Stone beer. Over 50 people had arrived by then, and we had a wonderful time meeting others with similar interests in eating locally and knowing about the origins of their food. Meanwhile, all the kids had a good time on the jungle gym. After the sun went down, we found a place to sit on the hay bales in front of the projection screen to watch "The Real Dirt on Farmer John." It was a touching and amusing film about the complexities of farming (both conventionally and organically) through the eyes of a rather eccentric, cross-dressing mid-westerner. I highly recommend it!

Barry has plans to offer similar events at the farm on a monthly basis. Check in with him at La Milpa Organica stand at the Hillcrest Farmers' Market every Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This sounds like quite a fun experience! I have quite a clear picture in my mind of what the farm looked like! Perhaps one day I'll be able to visit. Is this movie something that can be found in a store, or must it be ordered?