City Farm History
In response to widespread public input, in particular from members of the Environmental Quality Task Force (EQTF), the City Council adopts this policy: "This approximately 180-acre area of prime farmland bounded by Madonna Road, Highway 101, Central Coast Plaza, and Prefumo Creek is in three ownerships. The City intends to preserve at least one-half of this signature working agricultural landscape at the southern gateway to San Luis Obispo as it existed in 1994. " ---City of San Luis Obispo General Plan, Land Use Element, Policy 8.8. In order to convert half of their agricultural land to commercial use and annex to the City, two of the three landowners donates half of their parcels to the City. These two parcels are designated by the City as the Calle Joaquin Agricultural Reserve.
2009 - 2011
In response to the City’s call for a non-profit organization to manage the Reserve in accordance with the terms of the General Plan, Community meetings and surveys are conducted by various citizen groups, including ECOSLO, Food Systems Coalition, and the Food Bank, to determine public priorities for uses of the land. An existing licensed nonprofit, Central Coast Ag Network(CCAN), transitions to become the organization to coordinate those efforts. Eric Veium serves as Board President. Its volunteers develop a Proposal to present to the City and begin applying for national and regional grants to finance the project.
CCAN is awarded the AHEAD Grant by the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco to plan and carry out a feasibility study for using the Reserve for the purposes stated in the General Plan, but also as a Regional Food Hub for the aggregation and distribution of local farm produce.
The City approves a Master Plan for the Reserve which provides for management of 19 acres of the Reserve specifying that its purpose is to maintain this "signature landscape" in sustainable agricultural production and to provide its citizens with educational opportunities to learn about food production and local food systems. The Plan includes provision for the possible construction of a Food Hub of the kind envisioned in the CCAN proposal.
The City Council approves a twenty-year lease with CCAN, developed with extensive input from the organization.
CCAN raises funds through a grant from the Henry Mayo Newhall Foundation for a state-of-art irrigation system for the whole parcel and completes its installation.
CCAN is awarded a USDA Specialty Crop Grant. Most of funds are directed to two County-wide studies carried out by professional consultants: a County Food System Inventory and a Surplus Land Survey.
CCAN hires Jenna Smith as its Executive Director.
CCAN signs a sublease agreement for 17 acres with its first subtenant, Nico Farms of San Luis Obispo, fulfilling its obligation to provide affordable land and adequate infrastructure for independent farm enterprises to carry out sustainable agricultural agricultural production. CCAN thereby gains a revenue stream to help support its educational and community service programs.
CCAN rebrands as Central Coast Grown (CCG)
Public Land survey is completed.
CCG holds a ground-breaking ceremony at the farm signaling the start of its programs. It is attended by City officials and many citizens who advocated for the creation of the Reserve in 1994.
CCG initiates its first educational program in partnership with Pacific Beach Continuation High School: a twice weekly academic credit class called “Farm,” in which students and teachers work on site to grow crops, harvest, cook and eat them, and donate surplus to the Food Bank and Salvation Army. The farm class is supported by new educational gardens and infrastructure.
CCG initiates a program of on-site weekly Horticultural Therapy classes for Developmentally Disabled young adults in San Luis Coastal Unified School District’s PREPARE program. Both programs continue to thrive in 2021.
Nicki Anderson takes charge as Educator and Farm Manager and initiates the Instagram and Facebook Social Media program.
CCG begins collaboration with Our Global Family Garden, affiliated with the SLO Permaculture Group, where elementary school children and their families learn about worldwide food cultures and food cultivation methods during weekend workshops and Farmgirls Summer Camp
CCG initiates its annual Fall Harvest Festival which welcomes community members for hayride tours, produce sales, corn roast, educational booths and entertainment.
CCG initiates its program of monthly Saturday work parties which draws the public to participate in planting, cultivating, harvesting crops, and building projects.
CCG completes four infrastructure improvements: a permanent Pergola structure used as classroom and event space, a field kitchen, deer fencing and a perennial crop Food Forest.
Steven Marx is elected as Board President to succeed Hunter Francis
CCG initiates ON-THE-FARM, a program of field trips that extend the benefits of its educational projects for special needs students to a larger constituency. It allows groups from kindergarten through middle school to deepen what they learn about biology, ecology, and nutrition in the classroom by meeting farmers and working the land themselves.
CCG rebrands as City Farm SLO and launches its new website
Animal husbandry programs begin with the donation of a chicken coop and flock of chickens.
City Farm installs a solar array which significantly reduces its pump electricity bill and adds renewable energy to the grid.
Farm class at Pacific Beach adds a Farm Box CSA Program to sell vegetables it grew to the public and gain business enterprise experience.
Educational garden surplus is donated to the Food Bank and to SLCUSD Food Service for school lunches.
Steven Marx is named volunteer Executive Director.
Farm manager, Shane Lovell, builds state-of-the-art compost bin, vermicomposter and biodigester complex to refine and publicize regenerative agriculture methods.
Thriving Educational programs—Farm Class, Field Trips, Farm Box—are shut down due to COVID school closures. Several grants discontinued. Attention shifts to increasing garden productivity, produce donations, and soil health. PREPARE Therapeutic Horticulture sessions continue.
A major donor provides funds for infrastructure projects: construction of a Coolbot produce cooler, repair and refitting of high tunnel for indoor intensive production, fencing, sheep shed and corral, and creation of six minute promotional video.
Three heritage breed Navaho Churro sheep are purchased in partnership with subtenant, Mariposa Education, to produce wool and lambs, to manage weeds and take part in rotational grazing component of regenerative agricultural practice. Corral is built by CFS staff and Mariposa parent volunteers.
40 fruit trees are purchased and planted by Megan’s Organic Market for a U-Pic orchard as community service project.
Youth Empowerment Program (YEP) begins, funded by major donor, established by Alejandra Mahoney and staffed by Gissel Neri Corcoles and Adriana Arias. The Program serves 16 students ages 14-17 from a wide variety of backgrounds and is conducted bilingually in English and Spanish. The curriculum includes life-skills such as goal setting, financial responsibility and team building. Ninety minutes of each class is devoted to farming activity. Instruction is supported by veteran farmer and subtenant, Jerry Mahoney.
Four-year volunteer leader and Board member, Kayla Rutland is hired as Associate Director of City Farm SLO.
Grand Opening of Produce Cooler completed as Senior Project by Cal Poly Construction management student Connor Morinini with assistance by Thoma Electric, allowing for expansion of Market Garden produce sales and donation programs.
High Tunnel fully planted and in production under direction of Farm Manager Shane Lovell.
YEP graduates first cohort and continues with second 10-week session and summer session. Program expands with contract to provide 5000 lbs of produce to the Food Bank and establishment of YEP Farm—a one acre parcel planted and maintained by students using Regenerative no-till techniques that qualify as Carbon Farming.
Weekly Volunteer Harvest program staffed by volunteers and interns serves produce marketing program at Farm Supply Farmers Market, Harvestly (online farmers market), and local restaurants and retail outlets.
Steven Marx steps down as volunteer Executive Director and is succeeded by Kayla Rutland in full-time staff position.