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Fairview Gardens Education Director Sharon Tollefson

Paul Wellman

Fairview Gardens Education Director Sharon Tollefson


Fairview Gardens Grows into the Future

New Classes, CSA Program, and More on Tap for Goleta’s Urban Farm


From kohlrabi and kids camps to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and how-to classes, Goleta’s Fairview Gardens wants to get residents in on the land.

In early June, the farm’s produce stand will once again be fully operational, offering fruits and vegetables from its own garden, as well as food from other area farmers and vendors. Later this month — to teach people different ways to use those foods — Fairview will start offering classes in its “Urban Homesteading Series,” holding day-long seminars on how to make soap, harvest honey, and can pickles, among other things. And, starting in June, the organization’s summer camps for kids will commence.

“We’re looking to grow the community around Fairview Gardens,” said Dayna Birkley, a boardmember for the organization, at a get-together held last Monday. People come there, she said, and “un-slump their shoulders.”

In a sense, Fairview Gardens is un-slumping its own figurative shoulders. Times have been tough for the nonprofit organization over the past couple of years — there have been some complaints from neighbors and problems earning money — but things are very much looking up, said board president Doug Steigerwald.

“The city as a whole is very supportive of Fairview [Gardens],” he said, calling the farm-to-neighbor relationship a “symbiotic” one that is an “exemplar for urban planners” and lauding the benefits of bringing back the full-service farm stand. In selling the food grown on the premises, as well as produce from other farmers and items from D’Angelo’s Bakery, Steigerwald said, the stand will “serve as a focal point” for Fairview Gardens and be “an important source of revenue” — an estimated $300,000 per year, estimated the farm’s marketing manager, Julie Beaumont.

“We’re so excited,” Beaumont said, noting the farm’s CSA program, which allows people to buy a share (akin to a prepaid debit card) and then come and pick up whatever produce they want.

“When people support our business, it helps further our education mission,” said farm manager Shawn McMahon. The farm stand, he said, “gets people to the farm and to experience agriculture.”

The adult how-to classes do that and so, too, do the kids day camps, said executive director Mark Tollefson. “We’re not just dragging kids around and poking their noses in compost piles but are actually engaging in deep-level mentoring,” he said, noting the four-to-one student-to-instructor ratio. “They get to explore. Kids are directing their own learning.”

And that learning is one of the — if not the — overall goals of Fairview Gardens, said Tollefson. “How do we build community? We as a species have become the most successful on the planet through being connected to the world around us.”

For more information, including CSA rates and camp and class schedules, visit fairviewgardens.org.

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