Oceanside CA— Luke Girling has the vision, passion and drive to create the only Certified Organic, GMO free vegetable farm in Oceanside and he has turned to KickStarter to help make his field of dreams a reality.
Luke grew up in Oceanside and graduated from Oceanside High School “Barely! I think the teachers just wanted to get rid of me.” said Luke. He worked at the local health food store, Cream of the Crop, managing the produce department and got to know local farmers. From there he went to work as a cook at Hill Street Cafe and the Fish Joint, but it was his work, managing the restaurant owners orchard, that got Luke hooked on farming.
Deciding he want to further his knowledge in farming, Luke was accepted for a farming apprenticeship at UC Santa Cruz’s Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems. His time there gave him a new understanding of the many aspects of farming.
Just as he was finishing his education at school, Luke was offered an opportunity to put his skills to work.
“I was just finishing up my degree at school and out of nowhere, this job opened up at Bistro West and West Steak and Seafood.” The two restaurants are “farm to table” restaurants in Carlsbad and they wanted to expand their small farm plot into a larger operation. “I flew down on a Saturday night, met with the executive chef on Sunday and he hired me on the spot.”
The experience has led to furthering his education.
Managing the three acre farm, Luke works together with the chefs putting together menus paring a variety wines, beers and food with items from the farm. “When people are spending good money on dinner, you want give give them something special. A little more unique. It’s not just the beer and wine that’s special. It’s having something on the plate that was just picked that day.” explains Luke. “Me and my crew will pick something from the field and immediately, that day, the chef is creating something with it. That’s super cool.”
Through the process of working the farm for the restaurants, Luke has seen what can be done for his community. “I’ve seen what restaurants in the area order, in the way of produce, and what it costs to have those things shipped down here from northern California. I realized I can do that here.”
Luke has decided to start his own farm “and support the city where I grew up.”
Luke recently leased 2.5 acres of land in south Oceanside where he hopes to start Cyclops Farms. “Since I grew up in Oceanside I really wanted to find a coastal plot of land to show our community that it could be done.”
“I will eventually leave the ‘West’ but I’m not just going to cold quit.” Luke explained “My own personal belief is I owe it to them to keep working. They gave me a company credit card, a company van and would ask me, what do you need to make this happen? I would tell them, this, this and that and they would say, yes.
It has trained me so when I do step away on my own, I’ve learned from my experiences, I won’t make the same mistakes and I know a better direction.” continued Luke “When I leave, I will leave them in a better spot than ever.”
As for Cyclops Farms; “I’ve been working ahead of putting the KickStarter thing together by getting all my permits in order and getting ready so in case we get funded, Boom! I’m full in on this thing.”
The certification for Cyclops Farms to be an organic producer is well under way. “My wife, Frances, has been the paperwork person and she has really been holding it together for me. The paperwork seems never ending. They never told me about that part in school.” Luke said.
The vision for Cyclops Farms is multifaceted. “It’s not just organic produce, it’s flowers too.” Luke plans on growing flowers organically at the farm.
“Flowers have to be so perfect and growers spray all kind of chemicals on them to get them that way, I just don’t like the idea of people smelling that stuff and bring those chemicals into the house or a bouquet on a dinner table.” He plans on having a wide variety of organic edible flowers too.
Luke would like to integrate education into Cyclops Farms. “I’ve met with the Principal at Lincoln Middle School and talked with the people at Palmquist Elementary School. I would like to have them work with me at the farm to see how farm production works and me work and with the schools to bring up their production.”
The schools have gardens the students work in but they are relatively small. “I’d like the kids to see real farm production. Something where they can have fresh produce from their gardens every single day for the cafeteria.” said Luke. “There is a need for young farmers such as us to become the next generation of food producers.”