Fairview Gardens in Goleta, California, just north of Santa Barbara is a tiny jewelbox of a farm wedged between subdivisions on all sides.
Michael Ableman and a crew of workers and volunteers have created a thriving organic farm in a most unlikely place and have turned it into a demonstration and teaching center as well as a source of impeccably fresh produce for people in the surrounding area.
My new pal Martha and I took in the "Fields of Plenty" festival there this afternoon. We ambled the fields, tasted about 10 different varieties of squash, and feasted on a meal of tamales, fresh tortillas, beans, rice and three tremendous salsas.
The squash tasting may not have been the best idea. They had roasted about 10 different kinds of squash plain and were serving them at room temperature on toothpicks for $5. Hm.
Most people are already not THAT crazy about squash, especially when it isn't hot, and the $5 price was assuring that there weren't many takers. We went for it. I am a big proponent of side-by-side tastings and I figured "When am I ever going to get a chance to taste squash side-by-side again?" It just doesn't come up every day, you know. My favorites were the dense sweet squashes like butternut and kabocha. Martha preferred the lighter, more subtle delicata.
The cool part about the squash tasting is that it took place under a big old mulberry tree that had branches that reached all the way to the ground, making a green room to stand in.
1890 Farmhouse built by the Hollister Family. This is the band doing a sound check.
Me hanging out under the tree
Walking the fields on a warm fall afternoon was idyllic. The farm have lovely big chickens in a pen out in an orchard, brown ones and my favorites, the black and white ones that look checkered. An organic farm is so interesting because they grow a mix of crops to confuse the bugs and to improve the soil. I don't know how many crops they had there, but we saw lettuces, broccoli, onions, garlic, flowers, guavas, cherimoyas, citrus, squash, pumpkins, avocados, stone fruits, passion fruits, beets, basil, carrots, fennel, oh gosh, what else? A lot.
At lunch we sat with the nicest family. Or group of friends. I was never sure of everyone's relationship, but they were a bunch of Latino musicians who had come from Fresno and San Francisco to play there under the big pepper tree. One young man, Javier, sat down at our table, then more and more people kept coming and greeting each other, talking, laughing, telling stories, kids crawling on people's laps, giving hugs, sharing food. It was just a happy scene full of love and caring and I know Martha and I both felt lucky and charmed to be included.