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Drought Water Rate Increases in Goleta Force Change at Fairview Gardens

Nonprofit farm informed Community Supported Agriculture members it would end season early

Visitors to Fairview Gardens’ vegetable stand in Goleta were greeted with some of the last of the crop for the year. Drought water rate increases have forced the nonprofit farm to change its farming schedule.
Visitors to Fairview Gardens’ vegetable stand in Goleta were greeted with some of the last of the crop for the year. Drought water rate increases have forced the nonprofit farm to change its farming schedule.      (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

The ongoing drought has forced Fairview Gardens to cut its growing season short this year, with leaders crossing their fingers that big winter rains will nourish the urban farm back to health.

Water rates more than tripled for the 12-plus-acre Goleta farm at 598 N. Fairview Ave. on July 1 when Goleta Water District drought surcharges kicked in.

The increase was too much for the nonprofit Center for Urban Agriculture for Fairview Gardens, which was established in 1997 to focus on educating locals about where their food comes from and on producing quality organic fruits and vegetables for them to eat.

It’s the first time in recent memory the growing season was cut short, according to Fairview Gardens executive director Tim Heuer.

The 30 or so members of the farm’s Community Supported Agriculture program were notified this month that their produce pick-up schedule would end Oct. 8 — several weeks before the typical cutoff in early November.

Heuer, who was hired on over the summer, told Noozhawk he notified CSA members in person at the produce stand along Fairview Avenue and in a letter.

Most loyal customers who on a weekly basis bought full or half shares of seasonal vegetables — usually from Jan. 22 to Nov. 19 — opted to donate their produce back to the nonprofit farm, Heuer said.

“People are really supportive of us,” he said. “It’s really, really tough to be profitable just farming.”

Agricultural customers still have the lowest water rates in Goleta, but the additional $2.60 per hundred-cubic-feet surcharge was no small increase.

Fairview Gardens farm was cut its CSA memberships short this year due to drought rate water increases. Members who regularly pick up produce were greeted this week with a plowed field and a message saying the soil would be taking a break. Click to view larger
Fairview Gardens farm was cut its CSA memberships short this year due to drought rate water increases. Members who regularly pick up produce were greeted this week with a plowed field and a message saying the soil would be taking a break.    (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

In the letter to CSA members, Heuer said Fairview Gardens couldn’t make the bump work even after reducing water use by 50 percent and implementing grey water systems.

The soil is also suffering from lack of rainfall and nutrients, so ending the season early to plant cover crops like buckwheat, rye and clover could help the land rest.

“Thank you for your understanding and your commitment to supporting Fairview Gardens,” Heuer wrote in the letter.

“We look forward to this regenerative, new chapter for the farm and will keep you, our valued CSA members, apprised of events and key developments in the near future.”

Because no one knows for sure if stronger El Niño winter storms and rains are coming, Heuer wasn’t certain when the CSA program would start back up.

The Fairview Gardens produce stand will remain open year-round, sourced with organic vegetables from other area operations.

“We’re all hoping and crossing our fingers for rain,” Heuer said. “If we do get some, we’ll have a great opportunity to regroup.”

If it doesn’t rain, Fairview Gardens would have to go the expensive route of irrigating, growing less or nothing at all.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Fairview Gardens hopes to stay open all year and source some produce from other local operations. Click to view larger
Fairview Gardens hopes to stay open all year and source some produce from other local operations.    (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)
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