Lucila de Alejandro owns and operates Suzie’s Farm with her husband, Robin Taylor. Located three miles from the Pacific Ocean and three miles from the Mexican border, Suzie’s Farm got its start in 2004, and has provided fresh, organic produce to the San Diego area through a CSA, farmers markets, and sales to restaurants and grocers.
As a 70-acre urban farm, Suzie’s Farm provides a rare blend of tractor-scale farming just minutes from the urban core, and Lucila and Robin leveraged their geography and scale to grow rapidly as the local food scene in San Diego took off – but when that local food scene leveled off, they were faced with making hard decisions to save the farm and their relationship.
Lucila shares the process they used for making those hard decisions, including a technique with the acronym POEM. We also dig into how she and Robin have created a loyal workforce that carries Lucila’s energy and enthusiasm out into the community, how they use farm tours to engage the community and build their customer base, and how vegetable farming works in the Mediterranean climate of San Diego.
The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.
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Quotes from the Show
I realized that one acre wasn’t going to cut it.
There are few things as heart-wrenching as laying off your employees.
Cash-in-hand feels real the way that when you pull that strawberry off the vine and you bite into it and you're tasting the juices and you're crunching on those seeds and that flavor is bursting in your mouth… that’s the fruit of your labor.
One of our biggest failures was keeping up with demand, both actual and perceived.
I’m a much better farmer than I was at the beginning because of the failures.
The opportunity within every failure is greater than the failure because that’s where the growth is.
We left everything on the table for the farm, and we didn’t have anything left for each other.
Make sure that you remember that you are also a living, growing thing, and you want to make sure that you have everything you need in order to bear good fruit.
We don’t have customers. We have clients.
[when Lucila and her marketeers are selling produce…] It is not solely a transaction. It is an exchange of humanity.
There is a human engagement that happens in the farmer's market where you are able to give people the gift of their humanity through removing fear and engaging them in faith or hope or encouragement.
You think it’s just vegetables, but the vegetables are just the gateway drug. The real deal is encouraging people to step out of their comfort zone, to try something new.