Wild Willow Farm is part of the Tijuana River Valley where you’ll find ranches, the community garden, Suzie’s Farm and Border Field State Park. The farm itself has a wealth of opportunities for community members and visitors alike. Their website announces farming classes, a Farmshare CSA, and volunteer days.
I visited the farm during their Soil Shindig where Wild Willow gave lectures, showed composting methods and opened the property to visitors in general. Most helpful of all, they had placards that explained their history & philosophy.
I’d like to take you on a truncated virtual tour through their placards & property. However, I encourage everyone to visit this great farm themselves and find out more. This is an absolute gem of the South Bay!
Brief History of Wild Willow Farm
In December 2000, a farmer called his friends to his living room because the land he was farming was being sold to a developer. He posed a question: “Could the community buy the land instead and create an educational farming center?” Folks thought it a good idea and tried, but came up short to raise the $8 million in time. From the ashes of that failure a core group thought that having a conversation with the greater San Diego community about the value of local farms and food was needed. In order to give the conversation a frame, they formed San Diego Roots Sustainable Food Project, a California 501(c)3 educational non-profit.
The organization grew slowly for several years, coalescing a group of friends and colleagues in the endeavor. In 2007 we started holding meetings at Ocean Beach People’s Food Co-op, where our membership grew robust enough to look for land to lease and begin that educational farm dreamed of seven years earlier.
We looked at several properties over a two-year period, and in March 2010 someone said, “I know a piece of farmland that’s perfect.” He worked at Suzie’s Farm and the small parcel they started out on but soon outgrew what was available. We checked it out, it met our criteria, and we commenced a deal that put us on the land in June of 2010, fulfilling the dreams of a community of people who had been envisioning this for years. Now the work began.
The Farm School Began
They started a Farm School in the fall of 2012, training an average of 80-100 students a year. Every year they bring 3000+ school kids who learn how food grows and how delicious fresh produce is.
Their teaching focuses on promoting sustainable agriculture and moving toward a healthier, locally based food system. In addition, their composting education is extensive, including several different methods: static, active and worm composting.
There is no waste in nature. Composting is humanity’s way to work with nature to responsibly recycle farm and food waste back to the soil. In carefully engineered piles, microorganisms and macro organisms break down organic materials — biologically “cooking” them into a nutrient-rich soil amendment that improves the health and efficiency of our farm and the ecosystem in which we reside.
Wild Willow practices and teaches regenerative agriculture, meaning they actively working to improve the grounds they are stewards of. Here are three tenants they talk about:
We are devoted to soil
Our agricultural philosophy begins with the practice of building rich, living oil, inhabited by billions of living organisms per handful. Not only does living soil provide our crops what they need to thrive and naturally ward off pests and disease, this sponge-like medium holds water at the root zone (important when growing food in a desert), while sequestering carbon from the atmosphere. This practice effectively turns farmland into a carbon sink, one emerging technology in the fight against global warming.
We use low-till and no-till practices
We do our best to disrupt the soil as little as possible, preferring to open it up with forks to let in air and nutrients. This is called low-till farming.
We often use no-till practices when it comes to weeds. Instead of pulling weeds out, root and all, we like to clip them just below the ground level. Not only does this usually kill the weed, it leaves its roots in the ground, which decompose into soil. The weed spent a lot of energy digging that root and putting resources into the soil, and for that, we thank them!
We Use water efficiently
We’re growing food in a desert. to do so responsibly, Wild Willow Farm employs state-of-the-art water conservation methods such as timed drop irrigation, which uses 20-50% less water than conventional systems.
- Water is applied in measured amounts where and when needed.
- Far less water is lost to wind, runoff, or evaporation.
- Water use is reduced significantly compared to conventional irrigation methods.
Wild Willow Farms also raises chickens and goats. Why?
- Farms generate lots of weeds, crop residue, produce trimmings and cooking scraps. These can be fed to goats and chickens who produce eggs, milk and manure in exchange.
- Farms need fertilizer, and when property processed through a compost system, the animals manure enriches and replenishes the soil. This on-site recycling of nutrition means we can greatly reduce our purchases of feed and fertilizers produced off-site.
- Modern Agriculture separates animals from farms, turning an integrated solution into separate sets of environmentally challenging waste problems, as well as necessitating the importation of food and resources for both farms and animals.
- We love our animals, treat them kindly, and do not raise them for meat.
Address: 2550 Sunset Ave, San Diego, CA 92154