The first time I met Luke Girling, he had completed his farming education a year earlier, graduating from The Center for Agro-Ecology and Sustainable Food System program at the University of Santa Cruz, and was managing a local vegetable production farm for West and Bistro West in Carlsbad. I took a tour with the chef, who introduced me to Luke as the guy that makes the menu happen.
From the get go, Luke’s passion for farming was so apparent. His commitment to growing local organic food was inspiring. He explained the growth process with the excitement of a kid retelling his favorite story. It made sense why the food on the plates at West were so flavorful.
The Farmer Behind the Food
Fast forward a couple of years and I keep hearing about this place called Cyclops Farms. Even my friend Tommy the Fishmonger from Catalina Offshore Products was telling me about it. Then one day, I saw Luke share a post from Cyclops talking about the harvest for that week. I’m not usually that slow, but I finally put two and two together and realized that Luke was the guy behind the family run farm.
If You Build It…
After successfully growing for the restaurants, Luke decided to open up his own farm in his hometown of Oceanside. “I found some plots around Oceanside but it was difficult to get people on board with the idea of having a farm on the property and to see how beneficial it could be.” Eventually, Luke knocked on the door at 1448 Avocado Ave. in Fire Mountain. Within two months, he had signed a two-year lease on 2.5 acres of dirt.
Today, that 2 ½ acres of dirt is a thriving farm. Luke’s commitment to growing organically got Cyclops recognized by CCOF as a Certified Organic (GMO free) farm, the only one in Coastal North County.
You’ve Probably Already Eaten Cyclops Produce
Believe it or not, you might have already had fruits and veggies from Cyclops Farms. That’s because Cyclops supplies produce to some of our favorite restaurants, including The Flying Pig, Wrench and Rodent, Petite Madeline, The Privateer, Local Tap House (LTH), and 608.
The food community is pretty tight, and even more so when you get down to a microcosm like Oceanside. The cool thing about what we’re seeing there is that the chefs, staff, and guys like Luke are all working passionately to bring people the best food, grown and enjoyed locally.
Who does Luke like to work with? “If you’re cool and down-to-earth and stoked about the farm, and aren’t looking for food that’s cosmetically perfect, we can work together.”
I had the opportunity to talk to one of those chefs about Cyclops Farms and working with Luke., Chef Willy Eick of 608 had a lot of great things to say about the farm. I wondered if he put in requests for produce for his menu, but it turns out, it’s more of a partnership and using what they’re growing on the farm. “I go see what Luke’s got growing and create my specials from there.”
Buying Directly at Cyclops Farms
The farm stand at Cyclops is only open on Saturdays from 8:00-12:30. The early bird gets the worm, so the earlier you arrive, the better. Chef Eick told me that he likes to get there as soon as they open. You can still find a fair amount of produce around 10, but you’re pushing your luck the closer you get to noon.
As for pricing, it’s all done by eye. Pop open your market bag and Luke counts it all up and gives you a number that might shock you. I’m convinced he’s not charging enough, but I’m not going to argue with him. I mean… I got all THIS for only $10:
Support Cyclops Farms
Besides buying your weekly fruits and veggies at the farm, you can support Cyclops Farms two more ways. First, you can purchase a recipe book. At $25, it’s priced for fundraising to support the only Certified Organic farm in the area, which is worth every penny.
You can also eat on the farm at the monthly “Water Bill” dinner, where amazing local chefs cook up a meal fresh from the earth. End the evening sipping a drink and while the sun goes down over the sliver of ocean visible from the farm.
Why the name? Because they’re “Keeping an eye on our food systems.” We’re glad we’ve got this guy watching out for us up here in North County. That’s one good reason to support the farm. Here are a few more reasons to get your fruits and veggies at Cyclops Farms:
The environment is greatly impacted by farming. Local farmers who focus on sustainability have a big hand in keeping our environment healthy. If the environment is important to you, it’s important to support local farmers.
Taste is another big reason. Flavor is the main priority for Luke. Some farms care more about what the product looks like, but pretty doesn’t always equal delicious. When you taste the food grown at Cyclops, you’ll get it.
Nourishment, of course. Isn’t that the main reason to make sure you’re eating your fruits and veggies? To make sure your produce has the optimal nutritional value, get your produce from the source. Even better… get it from the one farm that’s Certified Organic!
Connect with Your Food
A regular trip to the farm is one of the best ways to connect with where your food comes from. Meeting and talking to farmers and food artisans is a great opportunity to learn more about how and where food is produced. At Cyclops, Luke will answer any and all of your questions about the food he’s harvesting. He’ll even invite you to take a walk through the farm to see what’s growing.
Connect with Cyclops Farms
The best way to stay connected to the latest happenings at the farm is the Cyclops Farms Facebook page. Make sure to like their page and keep it bookmarked!
Map Photo Credit: Google Earth