The Organic Garden Club of Ventura County members went on amazing tours of gardens, nurseries, and farms during 2022 to expand our knowledge of organic fruit and veggies gardening, grown with native plants. We carpooled to all our tours and had free admission. Here are our some of our memorable tours.
Gottlieb Native Garden
On April 2, 2022, Organic Garden Club members were inspired and delighted with an enlightening experience at Gottlieb Native Garden where we were graciously hosted by Susan Gottlieb. More than 30 years ago, she converted her one-acre property in Beverly Hills into one of the U.S. premier native gardens and a miniature biome that is an active site for scientific research and education with 200 species of California native plants and trees. She inspired us to plant these species in our own backyards.
Scott Logan, the Garden Naturalist, told us great stories and showed us wonderful photos from his book about the nearly 500 species of animals, from insects to mammals, that inhabit the Gottlieb Native Garden because of the native plants in the landscape.
He gave us insights into how to attract the different species with the bird and bee houses, fabulous hummingbird dining areas, and many different water features at the Gottlieb Native Garden. He explained how wildlife can thrive in our backyards also.
One Acre Farm
Organic Garden Club members had a wonderful time on April 16, 2022, picking yummy organic blueberries at One Acre Farm in Santa Rosa. Scott Bahler and his family started One Acre Farm in 2016. Partnering with his friend Dan Vigna, they leased an acre of land from his in-laws at Gerry Ranch and planted organic blueberries in 2017.
They grow different varieties of organic blueberries in 5 gallon pots that produce some berries in the winter and some in the spring. They have covered the entire acre with shade fabric and put landscape fabric on the ground. Opening to the public for U-pick in 2019, they market the majority of their produce that way. Scott grows organic but Gerry Ranch grows conventional lemons, avocados, and blueberries and is a wedding venue.
In 2019, they began growing organic strawberries and then in 2020 started growing different varieties of organic tomatoes. Scott gave us a tour of Gerry Ranch from the parking lot by the Wedding venue as he explained how blueberries like acidic soil and planting them in pots helps him keep them organic and the pH balance correct. We filled containers full of berries and were told to freeze what we could not use that week.
Buon Gusto Olive Farm
Organic Garden Club members enjoyed a perfect day at heavenly organic Buon Gusto Olive Farm on May 7, 2022 in a gorgeous corner of Ventura where they get ocean breezes, surrounded by majestic mountains. At Buon Gusto Olive Farm, the organically grown olives are hand harvested and locally cold pressed, resulting in a 100% California Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil that has a buttery richness.
Using it instead of other oils can help reduce strokes, heart disease, and diabetes with its abundant antioxidants and healthy fats. Owner, Mark Mooring’s daughoer, Gina, enlightened us on the importance of using local organic olive oil instead of imported, because you know where it is from and that it is truly organic and extra virgin. She told us to look for local organic extra virgin olive oil at the store or Farmers Market, and check the label for the USDA Organic label, the production date, and the location of the olive farm.
From the moment the olives are crushed in the fall the aging starts, and the oil starts to lose its magic and will start to go rancid in twelve to fourteen months. We saw lots of baby olives sprouting for next fall’s harvest and had a delicious tasting of the oil on locally baked bread. Club members thought the Buenaventura Organic Estate Grown Extra Virgin Olive Oil was the best they’d ever tasted and came home with lots of bottles for home and gifts!
Imara Shaw’s Fruit and Veggie Garden
On June 25, 2022, we were enchanted by member Imara Shaw’s garden, avocado orchard, and pond on 2.3 beautiful acres with gorgeous views in Somis. Her 60 illustrated and informative labels on the veggies, herbs, and plants scattered on the property tell their properties, care, and benefits and are a walking outdoor educational experience that we only began to absorb. She has metal trough raised beds and pots with tomatoes and other veggies by her kitchen door.
We took her new paths through the avocado orchard to see her farmer’s harvest box raised beds with protective wire, which are great examples of how to grow organic food and protect it from the critters!
We visited Imara’s chicken house and got to meet and feed her beautiful chickens. Next to it, is her greenhouse with fans and automatic skylights to keep the baby fruit trees happy, and it even felt cool inside on a warm day.
We loved the lovely waterfall into Imara’s aquaponic garden pond, where she grows watercress and lemongrass. The pond is filled with the turtles and koi fish (who have a protective tunnel). Ponds are a delight in the landscape, holding the water on the land and attracting wildlife. By the pond is a new Flow Beehive, which allows honey to be extracted simply by turning a knob and requires no protective gear for humans. Some beekeepers think this may encourage lazy beekeeping with new beekeepers never performing the regular inspections. But its great for responsible beekeepers like Imara. She then treated us to a delightful organic luncheon, with fabulous salads and fresh from the tree guacamole. Everything was especially delicious and healthy. A great ending to a wonderful day!
Inner Gardens Nursery
Organic Garden Club members loved the cool ocean breeze at the 1.3 acre Inner Gardens Nursery in Malibu during a heat wave on August 6, 2022. For the past forty years Nigel Nursery was a destination for plant lovers. Since it was bought by Inner Gardens, it has become a full service design showroom. It is a tranquil oasis by the beach with unusual landscape and patio plants used to create outdoor rooms and living spaces with art for the garden, fountains, and patio decor.
We toured the 2000 square feet of greenhouses, including one with a 25 foot tall roof, filled with unusual specimen trees and plants. Our guide explained the interior design vision using artistic plant containers from around the world to bring the outdoors inside. We were delighted with the unique house plants for large indoor areas, from massive to minuscule including tropicals imported from Hawaii and Florida, plus many Mediterranean plants.
Rodale Institute’s California Organic Center
Organic Garden Club members enjoyed a fabulous tour with Dr. Arianna Bozzolo, the research director at Rodale Institute’s California Organic Center at McGrath Organic Family Farms in Camarillo on October 14, 2022. This is Rodale Institute’s 75 year anniversary as a global leader in regenerative organic agriculture! As we walked the fields, we learned about their unique regenerative organic research projects, like replacing plastic landscape fabric used for weed control with various cover crops, such as buckwheat, sorghum, lima beans, and clover.
She planted a different cover crop between her pumpkins to test which one was most effective. She proved that a no-till organic vegetable production was effective using a cover crop roller-crimper to enrich the soil and protect the microorganisms. She showed us several rows where she and her farm manager are testing different irrigation techniques. We saw her cotton experiment for growing sustainable clothes that uses less water, less energy, regenerates biodiversity in our soil, and is recyclable and harvested some cotton. At the end of our tour, we had a visit with Phil McGrath, owner of McGrath Family Farms, where he is now growing a new generation of farmers by leasing several one acre parcels of his rich organic farmland.
On November 5th, during Farm Day, we visited Sa’Aliyas Ranch, an organic educational farm at Pacific High School in Ventura that is using modern technology. The brand new aquaponic facility fertilizes the veggies with the fish water that is continuously recirculated throughout the system. We learned how it uses 1/10th of the water used growing soil crops, is totally organic, and grows crops without much maintenance. They also grow fruit trees that are organically fertilized and monitored by drones. Plus they have a weather station on the roof of the aquaponic facility.