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San Clemente Journal

San Clemente Urban Farms Serving the Community and Those in Need

Jul 01, 2021 01:14PM ● By Anne Batty

Located at the Bella Colina Golf Course.

 by Anne Batty

Sprawled uniformly on a plot of land at the end of the Bella Colina Golf Course parking lot, 40 white farming towers stand proudly ready to provide nutrient dense “beyond organic” food to the surrounding community.

Aptly named the San Clemente Urban Farms; with the support of Bella Colina’s owner, Mark Zane, the club’s manager, Jay Pesicka, and Farm Manager, Sheldon Compton, the dream of the founder and executive director, Greg Licht – “to form a philanthropy that would serve the community and feed people in need with beyond organic healthy food” - has finally come to fruition

Greg Licht, founder/director of the non-profit San Clemente Urban Farms.

 “Mark and Jay were instrumental in the establishment of this farm,” said Licht. “The club not only provides us the land, it pays for the electricity and water needed for the food’s growth. Without this support and generosity, this project wouldn’t exist.”

The Beginnings
It all started when Greg became aware of the success of tower farming countrywide. Previously gardening at home from raised beds, upon purchasing one tower for his backyard, one quickly turned into 15 and he was soon producing more food than one family could eat. Before long, he went from recreational gardener to full-time farmer and it was then that he decided to find a place in town to establish a non-profit farm that could provide the community and those in need with the same fresh, healthy produce his family and friends were enjoying.  

“I grew up in dirt on a farm/ranch in a little-known, once gold-rich town in northern California called Rough and Ready,” Greg shared. “Always a farmer at heart, I loved growing things. Upon learning more about tower gardening and its benefits from a Juice Plus lady at my church, I was hooked, and now my once backyard towers have grown into a 40-tower multi-food producing beyond organic farm.”

Farm Manager Sheldon Compton.

 How it’s Done
The towers used on this farm produce food with aeroponic technology, using no soil, only electricity to circulate water throughout the tower, nourishing the growth. The seedlings are started in coco coir, an organic coconut husk byproduct. When sprouted they are placed in greenhouse light until strong enough to be planted in the tower. This revolutionary vertical aeroponic gardening system uses about 90% less water than traditional growing methods and about 90% less space, offering an ecological alternative to present farm and gardening methods.
Utilizing this process SCUFs is able to harvest over 1,000 plants every 4-6 weeks, producing a variety of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, and herbs.

With the help of volunteers, Farm Manager Sheldon Compton oversees the workings of the farm. He is responsible for the planting and growth of the seedlings. A transplant from Mississippi and a graduate in Environmental Science from San Diego’s Point Loma Nazarene University, Sheldon has also created a composting system for the farm.

“Our composting program helps raise money for the farm,” Sheldon explained. “Bonzai Bowls provides the buckets in which our community compost members save their food scraps to bring to the farm. We ask for a donation of $25 to be a part of this program. This donation helps with the funding of the farm and covers the labor required to compost. We provide a list of the food waste to be placed and saved in the buckets, and those participating bring them in when full, taking back another to be re-filled. Our compost can also be purchased for personal use. Not only is this one of the ways that people can help us in our efforts to feed others, this composting program helps to reduce unnecessary landfill waste.” 

The Mission
“Our mission is to supply food banks and families with the highest quality food that is truly organic,” said Greg. “We provide food that is not only nutrient dense, but free of pesticides and chemicals, is non GMO and truly beyond organic.” 

To this end San Clemente Urban Farms provides fresh produce to Family Assistance Ministry (FAM) in San Clemente, the Laguna Food Pantry, and the Southern California Indian Center in Fountain Valley. 

Along with serving the needy, SCUFs not only provides people in the community with the opportunity to purchase healthier food at their bi-monthly farm stand, but also offers the purchase of towers and seedlings for use in their own home gardens. They also offer a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program whereby purchasing a membership provides members with various sized baskets of greens and herbs weekly.

Strictly a non-profit organization, funds for the farm are secured through fund-raising events in spring, summer and fall; sales from the Farm Stand open to the public on the 1st and 3rd Saturday of the month from 9 am to 1 pm at the Bella Colina parking lot location; tower sponsorships and purchases; community business and personal donations; and the CSA and composting programs. 

The Future
When asked what he sees for the future of the San Clemente Urban Farms Greg states emphatically, “Our present goal is to expand to 52 towers, but the system in place can handle 150 towers. With the help and support of the community and Bella Colina the possibilities for expansion and service to and for the people of this community are endless.”

For more information about SCUFs, visit Facebook, contact Greg Licht at [email protected], call (949)498-7207 X 1or visit the Farm Stand 1st/3rd Saturday 9am-1pm 200 Avenida La Plata, San Clemente.