Friends, Neighbors, and Community Members,

We are excited to announce a new chapter for the Center for Urban Agriculture at Fairview Gardens (CUAFG). As many of you are aware, the farm and its aging infrastructure are in serious need of a physical upgrade and a new vision. Starting fall 2022, CUAFG will undertake an extensive visioning, planning and re-design process for the farm, its infrastructure, and its programs. The Board has asked Michael Ableman, CUAFG’s founder and original farmer, to return after twenty years away to lead this process. Michael has outlined his goals for the project below.

Unfortunately, long-term planning challenges, a changing climate, and external constraints have seriously degraded the farm and brought CUAFG to the brink of a financial cliff, with monthly costs far exceeding monthly revenue. We simply could not ask the community to continue to support ongoing operations without a long-term plan to reach financial sustainability. As such, we will be pausing all current programs and operations for the duration of the planning and redesign process. This pause will allow us to conserve scarce financial resources while focusing all our attention on this major undertaking.

Fairview Gardens and CUAFG had a prominent role in pioneering the sustainable, urban, and farm-based education agricultural movements. In our fifty-year history, we have inspired thousands of young people, fed hundreds of Santa Barbara County families annually, trained numerus successful organic farmers, and created one of the first active agricultural conservation easements in the country. Now we have the necessity and the opportunity to update that work to address the critical challenge of growing food in a changing climate, support the changing needs of our local community, offer creative opportunities for youth, and provide a model for farms to successfully navigate an uncertain future. 

Goals for the re-design are as follows:

  1. To create a climate resilient agricultural model that addresses the urgent issues of growing food with dwindling water and energy resources. To do this we are designing an innovative system focused on deep rooted perennials that appeal to the modern palette and require little if any water or external inputs. We will also re-build the farm and its infrastructure to demonstrate a dramatic reduction in energy use. We intend to install a large solar array, replace fossil fuel dependent machinery with electric technology, and operate the farm with few external inputs. We aim to demonstrate that agriculture in California and beyond can respond creatively to a changing climate and are fortunate to have access to some of the best minds on these issues who will contribute to the planning and design process. 
  2. To design and build a relatable and easily replicable suburban home garden model. Surrounding the farmhouse, the model garden will demonstrate growing methods and systems to replace lawns with high density food production. Fairview Gardens is an agricultural island floating in a sea of tract homes and shopping centers. Many of our suburban neighbors are seeking visible and accessible models for how they can convert their resource intensive front or back lawns into growing food. With their input, our hope is to empower urban and suburban dwellers with the tools, visible examples, and training to give them greater self-sufficiency and food security, improve nutrition, reduce water and fertilizer use, and limit the use of fossil fuels that are required to manage lawns.

  3. To create a dynamic interactive kids’ garden. CUAFG has a long and productive history of providing exceptional educational opportunities for adults and children. As part of our re-design we intend to draw on some of the best landscape architects and educators to create a child’s world within the farm that can provide both formal programs and the opportunity for children to immerse themselves within a multi-dimensional edible sensory landscape.

  4. To address critical infrastructure needs. The historic farmhouse, which is situated in the heart of the farm and is the home of our offices and meeting space, is desperately in need of restoration and upgrading. The farm also needs a service building to house equipment, tools, workshops, a commercial kitchen, and additional meeting space.

  5. To create a long-range master plan. This detailed and long-term plan will encompass crops, infrastructure, operations, programing, and management. It will include a Farm Management Manual and more stringent monitoring and enforcement mechanisms, to ensure that Fairview does not repeat the mistakes of its past. This management manual may serve as a model for other farms facing similar issues. 

We know these are ambitious goals. But we are confident that our long history in the sustainable food movement and farm-based education, coupled with some of the best talent in the field, will enable us to be successful. We also know this effort is necessary to make Fairview Gardens relevant and viable well into the future. 

As this process unfolds, we will look to you for input and inspiration and to help provide the support to make it all happen.

We look forward to this next phase for Fairview Gardens. Almost three decades ago, we protected the land in perpetuity as an agricultural oasis, preserving its hundred-year history. Now it is time to chart its course for the next hundred years. We thank you for your patience and ongoing support, and we look forward to entering this exciting new phase together.

CUAFG Board of Directors