A Goleta family farm is downsizing after 15 years, giving up about eight acres after a new property owner began charging thousands of dollars a month for water.
The farm, Ebby’s Organic Farm — named after farmer Mike Iniguez’s eldest daughter — has sold produce at the Goleta and Santa Barbara Farmers Markets, the Isla Vista Co-Op, and donated produce to organizations that provide free food, like Food not Bombs Isla Vista, Veggie Rescue, and the Isla Vista Community Fridge.
Ebby’s Organic Farm was originally composed of one five-acre plot on 236 Armas Canyon Road, which Iniguez has leased for 40 years, and another plot of about eight acres on 295 Ellwood Canyon Road, which he and his niece Lorena have been leasing for about 15 years.
In late March of this year, the farm received a $2,400 water bill from the Ellwood Canyon property. Normally, Mike and Lorena said they pay about $450 a month for water in the summer months, when they are using the most water. The farm budgets about $4,000 a year total for water.
“When I got that bill, I knew I had to go,” Mike said.
David Radan, an Orange County–based developer, purchased the Ellwood Cooper Ranch property in late 2021 and officially took over in January of this year. Mike and Lorena claim that he increased their water bill immensely, charging almost four times what they would normally pay. They say this caused them to stop watering many of their crops entirely, setting them back months in their farming, ultimately costing them $30,000 and forcing them to downsize their farm.
“Farming is time,” Mike said. “You lose a week, and that affects your entire production.”
Mike and Lorena asked to clear this up with Radan, explaining that because the water was being used for agricultural purposes, they had a meter that tracked exactly how much water they used. According to Lorena, Radan responded that because the farm took up the most land, occupying about eight of the 20 acres, they should pay for the majority of the water bill. Members of the community created a GoFundMe for the farm to help them reach this goal.
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The Independent reached out to Radan to ask for comment on these claims but was told he would be on vacation for several weeks. His son, Chase Radan, who works at Radan Construction Inc. alongside David, said he was unable to comment on any aspect of the situation.
“For me, it was a big injustice,” Lorena said.
Mike said the underground water pipes are in poor shape and prone to bursting, evidence of which can be seen on the surface six feet above. Lorena said they have spent $500 over the past four months fixing these leaks, and that Radan wouldn’t acknowledge the leaks as a possible reason for the high water use. Chase Radan said he was unable to comment on this claim as well. Chase’s only comment was that he and his father “definitely want [Ebby’s Organic Farm] to stay.”
Mike and Lorena also claim that other people live and use water on the property at Ellwood Canyon, though Chase would not confirm this.
Lorena said the only crop from the Ellwood property that can be sold is strawberries, the remainder being unable to survive the lack of water. She and Mike are unsure of where they will relocate to, choosing to focus on making back what they lost and caring for their other crops. Mike said the decision to leave the property was difficult, but he was reassured by the support of others.
“At the end of the day, I’d rather have my community,” he said.