Chef turns from the kitchen to the farm

Chef turns from the kitchen to the farm
Ryan Goldsmith, a former chef, turned away from cooking to become a farmer. He’s opened Farmer Leo’s, a roadside certified organic farm stand in Encinitas last week. Photo by Tony Cagala

ENCINITAS — On just less than two acres of land Ryan “Farmer Leo” Goldsmith has tilled and toiled the earth, transforming it from a once vacant lot to an organically certified farm. Lined in several rows dark leafy greens sprout along with a number of other vegetables that Goldsmith has found to grow best in the area.

Late last week, Goldsmith opened his roadside Farmer Leo’s organic farm stand, just steps from where his vegetables grow, selling everything from cabbage to Swiss chard, mini heads of lettuce and more.

A farmer for the past 10 years, Goldsmith signed the land lease last year and has been growing and harvesting his crops, which he calls a, “real rotating cast of characters,” since then.

Having previously worked as a chef, Goldsmith turned to farming vegetables after getting tired of being under the fluorescent lights of a kitchen when outside was a beautiful, sunny day.

It was then that he said he’d just rather be growing the vegetables he had been cooking with.

Dark leafy greens sprout along with a number of other vegetables that Ryan Goldsmith has found to grow best in the area. Photo by Tony Cagala

Dark leafy greens sprout along with a number of other vegetables that Ryan Goldsmith has found to grow best in the area. Photo by Tony Cagala

Originally from Dana Point, Calif., Goldsmith has lived in Encinitas for four years and studied Agroecology at UC Santa Cruz in their sustainable agriculture program.

Goldsmith has focused on just growing what does the best, he said. And a lot of that knowledge of what grows best, he added, came through trial by experience over the last three years.

His produce can be found in local restaurants as Fish 101, Solterra Winery & Kitchen and Priority Public House.

Goldsmith’s farm participates in Community Supported Agriculture.

This allows members of the community to invest in a membership-style arrangement. After paying a “subscription” fee up front, they can then help themselves to an agreed upon amount of produce each week.

CSAs have been a growing trend pretty much everywhere throughout the state, explained Casey Anderson, membership manager of the San Diego County Farm Bureau based in Escondido.

“Over the past 10 years we have seen a pretty significant increase in the number of CSAs operating,” he added.

Benefits of this business model can help, in some cases, farmers with financial security, Anderson said, because the money is on the front end.

But Goldsmith said he entered into the CSA to give people an opportunity to support the farm throughout the whole season, and in exchange the farm supports them by providing the food.

Through CSAs the customer enters into an experience along with the grower, Anderson explained.

There are a number of CSA-style farms in North County, including JR Organics in Escondido, Coral Tree Farm & Nursery in Encinitas, San Diego Fresh in Vista, to name a few. A thorough list of CSAs in the area can be found at ediblesandiego.com.

Farmer Leo’s is at 1920 S. El Camino Real. The hours are Wednesdays and Fridays from 2:30 to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. A full list of events, including a yoga brunch and dinners in the garden, is available at farmerleo.com.

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