When we need to do field trips and group discussions, our group of 32 is broken down into smaller groups of four. Today we visited Toby Kline at Santa Cruz Farm along Hwy 1. He leases and farms 3.5 acres on a hillside with views of the ocean. Combined, it provides a comfortable lifestyle for one person allowing him to take winters in Baja where he volunteers and consults on other farms. During peak season, he’ll have 4-6 full -time staff but otherwise, it is pretty much just him. Seeing a farm of this scale put into perspective the idea of farming a small plot of land. Which directly ties in with the Abraham Lincoln quote that Toby has emblazoned on the wall of his tool shed, “The greatest fine art of the future will be the making of a comfortable living from a small plot of land.” For Toby, farming sustainably is not just about organic methods but also what is sustainable for himself, his budget and lifestyle. He’s one guy, who isn’t wealthy and still wants a life. He has struck that balance.
70 years ago, nearly 20% of the population made their living as farmers and over 50% worked the land in some way perhaps in the form of a subsistence farm. Today less than 1% of the population claim farming as their main occupation. It’s not even listed on the census form. How far we’ve strayed! Toby is a great example of closing that gap not only providing for himself but others in his community. We need more farmers at this level like Toby. It demonstrates that you can carve an income from even a small-small scale farm. His food can be found in area restaurants, New Leaf Community Markets and three of Santa Cruz’s Farmer’s Markets. Toby is planning another phase to his sustainable farming practice by transitioning to primarily perennial crops meaning they will regrow each year unlike an annual which you have to plant new each year. It allows the soil to establish itself and get stronger over time versus always being tilled and replanted. He’ll find himself more on the berry side of the patch than vegetables which are typically more annuals but he sees a growing market and one ripe for the picking.