What do urban homesteading, vineyards and dentists have in common?
You’d be surprised. Time and again, I’ve noticed vineyards growing along the busy Telegraph Canyon Road in Chula Vista. On one afternoon, I decided to ditch my all my appointments, drive into the parking lot and traipsed through a private garden to take pictures. (True story.)
After a few great snaps, my conscience started to get to me. It’s probably not very nice for a stranger to be walking–let alone traipsing–through other people’s private gardens without at least introducing themselves. With head hanging in contrition, I walked into a slick-looking building and decided I would apologize. I assumed it was a senior citizen center.
The owner, So Thompson, immediately welcomed me and took me back to the garden for a tour. He explained that this is a dental office. So’s wife, Uyen Thompson, is one of the dentists who owns the practice.
I am not alone in thinking this slick building with vaulted ceilings is something, well, less dental. On a rainy afternoon about two years ago, So said that a gentleman walked in and asked if they had a room available.
So also explains that they decorate the building nine times a year, for every holiday. Their Halloween decorations have become so well-known that they were featured on CBS 8 news with Larry Himmel before he passed away in 2014 of cancer. Himmel’s report was called South Bay gets spooked. The decorations also meant that the building was mistaken for a Halloween store when a woman walked into the building and asked if she could buy costumes.
As a matter of fact, this office was built seventeen years ago in 1998 by a dentist who had it specifically designed for his practice. The property covers over an acre and the first owner created the garden with the vineyards. He would then give his harvest to patients. So and Uyen, originally from Los Angeles, met while studying at UCSD. They moved to Chula Vista and bought the practice from the previous dentist. When they took over, they also decided to keep the garden.
Now, they give any harvest from that day to their patients.
The couple used to have three gardeners, but due to the drought, they went down to one and now only cultivate the small garden plot right by the road. They are turning the rest of the vegetation on the property to drought resistant plants and succulents.
“We have two main planting seasons and sometimes we try to sneak in a third season. When we finish harvesting everything, we’re going to do a corn field and pumpkins for Halloween,” So says.
So showed me how they grow rhubarb, brussel sprouts, watermelons, spaghetti squash, summer squash and zucchini. They have purple, yellow and orange carrots along with eggplants, radishes, cilantro, lemon cucumbers and two varieties of strawberries. They also grow roses.
Planting and growing the garden hasn’t always been easy. In 2014 gophers ate up their Russian sunflowers. But every year they re-plant and do something different with their garden. In the future, So wants to switch from table grapes to wine grapes, for example, because he’s told wine grapes are sweeter.
Thank you for the tour, So!