Seabreeze Organic Farm: Growing a Healthier Community
Sep 29, 2011 03:13PM
● By Linda Sechrist
Long before Stephenie Caughlin, owner of Seabreeze Organic Farm, made her first sale of lettuce, goose eggs and a few tomatoes from the trunk of her car for a grand total of $13.65, she had thrown away her rose-colored glasses and abandoned any romanticized ideas about becoming a farmer. A realist who tended her grandmother’s farm animals during adolescence, Caughlin was clearly focused in 1988 when she approached her farming venture with a serious business plan in one hand and a packet of seeds in the other.
“Farming is first and foremost a business,” says Caughlin, who conducts research and business transactions from her computer by 5 a.m., discusses daily tasks with farmhands who show up at 7 a.m., and is back in her home office by 7:30 a.m. to field calls from vendors, groups interested in educational farm tours, and any of her 160 CSA shareholders. “I have to be in bed by 8 p.m. so I can get up and do it all over again—365 days a year,” says the former CEO of several futures trading companies, one of which was located in the World Trade Center.
In 1978, Caughlin purchased the coastal land now occupied by Seabreeze. Covered mostly with chaparral and groves of old eucalyptus trees, the land sat quietly until 1988, when its owner reassessed her lifestyle and goals. A single woman, Caughlin decided on a radical departure from the norm and began her journey, seed by seed and brick by brick. “Now, I’m married to Kendall Cook, my enduring, patient husband and wonderful supporter, who sees the farm the way I do—as a personal source of joy, health and nutrition for our family and clients, as a haven for animals and as a destination of beauty and serenity for visitors,” she explains.
Ingenuity and creativity have helped Caughlin persevere through economic instability and financial hardships—including monthly water costs that skyrocketed from $90 in 1988 to $2,185 in 2011—to maintain what she believes in: local independent farms as the foundation of America’s security. “In the event of natural disasters, breakdowns in food transportation necessitate that the majority of people who only have two days of food in their home have to look for a food source: their local farmer, who should not have been anonymous up to that point,” advises Caughlin. She emphasizes that supporting clean, sustainable farms and community organic gardens is our best first defense for food security.
Caughlin intentionally designed her CSA from an important customer service perspective: her own. “I asked myself, ‘If I was a CSA member, what would I want?’ and my first thought was doorstep delivery, because time is so precious,’” she says. Options were next: regular, small or petite-sized deliveries of seasonably fresh vegetables and fruits are delivered either weekly or every other week, along with another of Caughlin’s special touches: bouquets of fresh flowers. “The majority of our deliveries contain food grown at Seabreeze, but for nutritional diversity, there are items from other certified or local growers,” says Caughlin with a big smile. “It doesn’t take long for CSA customers to notice the benefits of eating fresh produce, and that’s ultimately what we are here for: a healthier community.”