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A trip to 'pay-as-you-can' farm stand in Encinitas

Coastal Roots Farm has donated over half its harvest to community members who lack access to fresh food through their pay-what-you-can farm stands and other programs

SAN DIEGO — Imagine the benefit of gathering healthy food for your family and not worrying about cost. In this Zevely Zone, I visited the Coastal Roots Farm in Encinitas where shoppers pay what they are able to at the farm's pay-as-you-can stand. It is a place where people come before profits.  

"Red potatoes, green radishes, strawberries, [and] we have cherry tomatoes," said Farm Production Assistant Manager Ellie Honan listing some of the stand's items.  

Ellie said low income families that can't afford to buy nutritious food are met with a suggested donation at checkout, but if people can't pay it, they get a $30 discount.

"That's a big piece of what attracted me to the farm," said Ellie.  

She says she feels when low income families can't afford to buy nutritious food, they think fast instead of fresh.  

"I mean I think fast food is something that, a lot of time out of convenience, people with limited time and money - that is their easiest option," said Ellie. 

"They are harvesting romance carrots - that is the carrot variety we grow over the summer," she said pointing to a nearby field.

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Romance carrots are just one of many items you'll fall in love with at Coastal Roots Farm.  

"Three times a week, you can volunteer at the farm where you can plant, harvest, or weed," said Ellie. 

If your kids don't want to weed, they can play with the chickens.  

"Every time I put a seed in the ground, it just feels like magic to see a little sprout germinate," said Ellie. "The tiniest little seeds can become a massive carrot."

When picked or pulled right out of the earth, a delicious dinner awaits.  

"You're going to live a long healthy life," I said to Ellie.  

"That's the plan," she responded. 

The farm sits on 20 acres of land, which includes a food forest, vegetable gardens, compost, a plant nursery, a vineyard and animal pastures in in the middle of Encinitas. It's located at the old Ecke Ranch on Saxony Road.  

Since inception, Coastal Roots Farm has donated over half its harvest to community members who lack access to fresh food through their pay-what-you-can farm stands, Community Support Agriculture program and direct donations to local hunger relief organizations including those that benefit local Holocaust survivors, military families and those at Vista Community Clinic. 

Coastal Roots Farm is hosting their 7th annual Sukkot Harvest Festival at the farm on Sunday, Oct. 20 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. This family event coincides with the last day of the week-long Jewish holiday of Sukkot, and is the farm's biggest event of the year, inspired by the Jewish tradition of gathering community outdoors to celebrate the end of an abundant summer harvest and welcome in the fall season and all it brings.

The Sukkot holiday is an ancient Jewish harvest festival reflecting themes of hospitality and the welcoming of strangers; like many of the farm's events, the festival will welcome people of all backgrounds. This year's festival theme is Sukkot Shalom, which means "sukkah of peace."

The community is invited to meet under the sukkah (temporary shelter) for a day filled with live music, food, and activities for all ages. Happenings include a host of Jewish learning workshops, self-guided farm tours, a kids zone, petting zoo, as well as numerous food vendor options for purchase. The music line-up includes Zzymzzy Quartet and Kavanah by Temple Solel.

The event has a suggested fee of $18 for adults and $9 for kids, or there is a pay-what-you can option; RSVPs are required. To RSVP, guests are asked to register online here. The farm is located at 441 Saxony Road in Encinitas.

For more information, visit CoastalRootsFarm.org.

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