A True San Diego Farm to Fork Experience - Encinitas

 Who knew that San Diego County has over 6,687 farms?! This ranks San Diego County to be the number one county with the most farms in the United States. One of those farms is the Coral Tree Farm, located in the heart of Encinitas. I visited the local farm recently with some friends for a holistic cooking class like no other. Holistic Foodie & Health Coach, Chef Chassie Bell of Forkin' Healthy and Farmer Laurel met us out front the Coral Tree Farm with a warm welcome to start off our day at the farm for true farm-to-fork foodie experience! 

Coral Tree Farm | 589 Park Ln, Encinitas, CA 92024 | www.coraltreefarm.com

Located in a residential area, this small farm's charm definitely adds some character in the neighborhood. How convenient would it be to have a small 2-acre farm down the street from you? The farm is family-owned and operated by Farmer Laurel and her family since 1958, with a dedication to producing heirloom vegetables and organically grown tropical fruits! Our tour of the farm continues with Farmer Laurel showing us her healthy free pasture flock of heritage breed chickens (pasture free and cruelty free) and also the goats! These animals have been raised without antibiotics and all their supplemental feed is organic, including the chicken scratch.

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Our first stop was Farmer Laurel's flock! It was an amazing sight to see. Goats running around eating their feed and the heritage breed chickens clucking. The ducks (which roam the farm), even stopped by to say hi to the group. Farmer Laurel taught us some pretty impressive facts, farm terminology as well as the dangers of antibiotics! Here's a couple of things we learned:

1. Goat Cheese is good for you. It's faster to process than cow's milk. Like, 1000% percent faster.

2. Pasture-raised - True free-range eggs from hens that are raised on pastures are more nutritious than cage-free eggs. People often confuse it with pasteurized - which basically means that the eggs have been treated to eliminate salmonella bacteria so you can eat it raw.

3. Antibiotics in livestock is bad - Long story short, farmers that use antibiotics to help grow their livestock is contributing to the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

We said farewell to the farm animals and headed to the vegetable garden area. Farmer Laurel told us about the history of some of the vegetables and plants we will see. All the vegetables in the farm are organic and heirloom!

We asked. What does heirloom mean? To put it simply, they are seeds from vegetables, fruits, and flowers that are passed down from generation to generation.  Most seeds today are from hybrid plants, so the seeds are sterile and cannot reproduce. This is why heirlooms are so cool!

Farmer Laurel told us about these rare squashes that she grew. She said one could feed a family of 10 for a week! We walked around and looked at the rest of the organic vegetables and tropical fruits.

THE GATHERING. Chef Chassie Bell and Farmer Laurel together explained about what we'll be doing for the rest of the day. We were able to gather some of the ingredients of our cooking class. One of the ingredients we were excited about was a very rare and unusual lettuce called forellenschluss. What is that?! It's an Austrian heirloom romaine-type lettuce with red spots on it. The name basically means spotted like a trout, so that's why it has similar markings of a trout.

Farmer Laurel told us about the life cycle of vegetables and how bright and vibrant they should look. She doesn't even let her CSA Members take their produce home if they aren't going home after the farm, so the produce doesn't sit in the car too long. (CSA - Community Supported Agriculture - Locals that buy into the farm seasonal production).

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We were astonished to be able to experience a rare lettuce! We were given a pair of scissors and started to gather fresh ingredients for our cooking class. We snipped some guava for the spritzer, cut two to three heads of lettuce, and pulled some fresh radishes off the ground for our salad.

COOKING TIME. Because of the sprinkle of rain the evening before our farm visit, we were unable to cook outside. Chef Chassie and Farmer Laurel had it all under control and had a complete set-up of our cooking class indoors. The class started with the introduction of the different work stations to produce our dinner. We were split into groups of guava cutters, salad choppers, soup mashers, bread grillers, pot stirrers, and you name it.

What was on the Menu?

Drinks: Guava Chia Spritzer

Appetizer:Tomato, Snow Pea and Spring Onion Bruschetta

Soup: Curried Kabocha Squash Soup with Cilantro and Lime

Salad: Arugula, Nasturtiums (flowers), Forellenschluss (our rare lettuce), Grapefruit, Parsley with Hemp Seeds and a Violet Tarragon Dressing.

Main Course: Black Lentils topped with Roasted Butternut Squash, tossed in Tahini, Parsley and Green Onions.

Chef Chassie had prepared some of the ingredients before in respect of time, so we just did a a little bit more of the preparation and some final touches. One group quartered the guavas and took out the seeds to mix into the spritzer. Another group cut the heirloom tomatoes in quarters to mix with the onion bruschetta, with fresh grilled bread! Meanwhile, I was tasked to stir the pot of black lentils while mixing in some rice vinegar and also the chopping/roasting of the butternut squash. Probably one of the funnest task was the preparation of the salad, where you go free with your creative mind to throw in healthy vegetables and edible flowers.

The room smelled so delicious, words cannot describe. I am speechless. Okay, not speechless, but it smelled really good.

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THE FEAST. After all that hard work, it was time to enjoy our creation. Served family-style, we huddled over our masterpiece. It was so beautiful, I wanted to cry, but didn't. We each filled our plates with smiles on our faces. Something about picking your own vegetables from a farm and learning about how it spruced from a seed passed from generation to generation and then cooking it to eat just makes this eating adventure mean so much more.

We gathered quietly on the picnic tables on the farm grounds in awe of the food. Then quickly burst into conversation and excitement of how amazing the farm tour and Chef Chassie was. Not going to lie, my plate didn't last very long. I dove straight into it. It was so fresh and crunchy. I was in foodie heaven. What's even better is how healthy it was, so it was okay to indulge!

This is real Forkin' Healthy Food!

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If you live in San Diego or visiting San Diego, you have to try to make a farm visit, or sign up for an Urban Farm cooking class. I would say this was probably one of the best experiences I've had in life.

So with that, I will leave you with Experience San Diego's reasons as to WHY to buy from your local farmers:

1. Local Farm Produce is Fresher - It didn't travel very far to get to you.

2. Local Food will support your Local Farms - Support the American tradition of self-sufficiency. Your local community will make more money and it will stay in your community.

3. It's Green - Buying from your local farmers will help protect the environment. When food doesn't have to travel far to get to you, you are reducing energy consumption!

4. Because it's Forkin' Healthy -  Seriously. It is.

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