ENCINITAS, Calif. – At the Coastal Roots Farm, they’re in the business of ensuring everyone has access to fresh, organically grown produce, eggs and herbs regardless of their ability to pay.
The nonprofit Jewish community farm, which sits on roughly 17 acres of land on Saxony Road near the San Diego Botanic Garden, grows and harvests seasonal fruits and vegetables year-round. Operating for the past five years, the organization partners with local organizations throughout the county to address hunger in the community.
“We do that through organic food distribution,” said Kesha Dorsey Spoor, a spokeswoman for the farm, adding, “We donate more than half of what we grow to community members in need; the other half is available for sale through our pay-what-you-can Farm Stand.”
Prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, roughly one in seven San Diegans had experienced food insecurity, according to the San Diego Hunger Coalition. In the organization’s State of Hunger report released in November, that number since has jumped to one in three households.
“You can imagine folks who never considered themselves low income, all of the sudden they don’t know where their next meal is coming from, so the need is higher than maybe ever,” Spoor said.
The pay-what-you-can Farm Stand offers residents up to $30 of produce at no cost through a private checkout system, according to the farm’s website. It is a twice-weekly service that has generated some long lines in the past year as people’s need for the service grows.
Operation hours are noon to 3 p.m. Thursdays and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays.
“Most importantly, it all happens through a dignified process,” Spoor said. “If you come as a Farm Stand shopper, you come up to the iPad and the person ringing you up says, ‘This is your suggested price,’ and you can enter whatever it is that you can pay today.”
Although food banks fulfill a vital community need, they don’t always have the infrastructure such as refrigeration or fresh produce available.
At Coastal Roots Farm, they grow more than 60 crops during the course of a year, Spoor said.
“There’s carrots; there are beets; always herbs — so it varies,” she said. “Here, it’s been harvested fresh out of the earth, that day. We are creating a critical access point for food to people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it.”