This new venture from third-generation farmers Noel and Jerome Stehly will be an organic and locally-based brrick-and-mortar produce market carrying artisan and locally produced items where available.
When I called to see if I could preview the store for my readers, Jerome suggested I visit the Stehly Organics farm in Valley Center to see where it all starts. Hmmm, a beautiful day in Southern California, a few hours in the country and samples of organic fruit I pick myself? In the interest of investigative journalism, I hopped in the car with associate editor John Poutre and took off for the farm.
Wow, what a great feeling to be out so far from the congestion of the city and in the rolling hills of the Valley Center area. Jerome met us at the office and showed us some of the massive numbers of gorgeous, delicious strawberries ready for shipping to the 50 stores in Southern California that stock them. We saw citrus and avocados being sized and hand packed as well.
A school group was scheduled to visit the next day, so we headed over to the blueberries to make sure there were plenty for the kids to pick. I kind of wished I was a third grader because besides picking berries, those kids were also going to get to pet the miniature horses, but we made up for it by visiting the blackberry bushes too (too thorny for kids, but the berries were magic!)
Stehly Farms grows an enormous variety of fruits, vegetable and berries. Corn was up in one field while the beets were just about all harvested in another. In every season something is blooming, fruiting or being picked. As we headed back to the office, we passed a field of dragon fruit, something we'd never seen before and stopped one more time to pick Golden Nugget tangerines. Jerome very kindly showed me the proper move to release the fruit from the tree and soon I had a fat bag of the sweet, seedless citrus fruits.
Back at the office we met Jerome's partner, his brother Noel, and took a look at the fast new bagging machine recently installed. Noel showed us what to do with a cutting from the dragon fruit plant and we said our good byes. Laden with strawberries, tangerines and the dragon plant we reluctantly headed back to "civilization". While the market might be located (conveniently) right in the heart of the Morena District, I imagine shopping there will always capture a bit of the atmosphere of the farm, peaceful in the country sunshine.
Stehly Farms Market is expected to open in a couple of weeks, dependent on final Health Dept. approvals. Watch the Clairemont Central blog for grand opening details.