When Machete Beer House opened two years ago, there weren't many places to get craft beer in National City. There weren't many opportunities to buy organic produce either. On Monday nights, Machete offers both. The bar hosts Market Mondays where, from 7 to 9 p.m., a little farm stand sets up in the corner of the bar for what's likely the smallest farmers' market in the country.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the greens, herbs, gourds, and root vegetables sold at Machete is that they were grown within a couple thousand feet of the bar, just down the street at Dickinson Farm.
That's the quarter-acre urban farm started by Stepheni Norton and Mike Lesley, who married after meeting while both served in the Coast Guard. In 2012 they bought the Wallace Dickinson house, an historic National City home dating back to 1888.
Norton explains that Wallace Dickinson first came to San Diego to pursue trade opportunities. "Not only was he a businessman," she says, "he was also one of the top horticulturists in the area. He did a bunch of testing on what would grow in San Diego well."
Around the time she and Lesley moved into the house, Norton had been struggling with a chronic illness, and struggled to find non-GMO and pesticide-free produce that wouldn't clash with her medication. "I was sick, so we started growing for access to food for me," she recalls.
When they learned of Dickinson's history growing plants on the property, they decided to switch to heirloom vegetables, the rule of thumb being, "What would Wallace grow?" Their heirloom varieties date back as far as the 8th Century, including several Ark of Taste plants — basically the endangered species list of the plant kingdom. By growing them to seed, Dickinson Farms contributes to their conservation.
What started as a garden quickly became a small farm, growing anything from peanuts and elderberry to strawberry and watermelon. "We started with four raised boxes," Norton says. "Now we have 16. We also have 20 long beds, four hedge rows of coffee, a small orchard, a little hop area, and we're going to do a little squash house in the spring." They started giving away excess produce, and donated some to a #southbayuprising dinner staged by Machete last year in benefit of another neighborhood farm, Olivewood Gardens.
Afterwards, Dickinson approached Machete owners Eddie Trejo and Joann Cornejo about selling produce, and the bar owners happily agreed. "It's something we think is really cool, giving the community a much better option than fast food," says Trejo. "There are grocery stores, but it's nothing like having something grown in your own neighborhood. There's a certain beauty to that."
And Machete's not their only connection to local beer. When Dickinson hosted a multi-course farm dinner with local chefs in November, Home Brewing Co. owner George Thornton curated beer pairings, including a beer he brewed with hops harvested from the farm. In addition to Market Mondays, the farm will continue to host dinners quarterly, with the next scheduled for February 19, 2017.