Quantcast
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Pete Verboom’s dairy farms west of the Pala Mission

He was president of the San Diego County Milk Producers’ Council

One of fourteen abandoned houses on Pete Verboom’s two dairy farms
One of fourteen abandoned houses on Pete Verboom’s two dairy farms

It’s an odd feeling, driving along State Route 76, to come across this ghost settlement, a few miles west of the Pala Mission.

“Be careful of snakes,” my friend Kim shouts, “and people!”

I’ve persuaded him to stop near one of these abandoned houses so I can get a look-see.

Because it does feel a little eery. The silence, except for cars and trucks zipping past behind the trees, birds chirruping when things go quiet, a mysterious shuffle in the grasses — a snake? — a distant dog bark, and houses with brambles gradually wrapping themselves around them like giant Venus Flytraps. But this front building is surrounded by sycamore trees. “Pete Verboom No. 1,” says the sign above where the front doors have been ripped out. I venture inside. Gouged plaster walls, concrete floors, broken glass, and bare dirty white walls, with graffiti.

“STILL DEAD?” says one.

“In memory of my brother Richard Ainsworth. I love you!” says another.

The owner, I discover, was Pete Verboom himself. Turns out this was one of his two dairy farms, 100 acres big. Verboom built the dairies and 14 buildings on the property, starting in 1966. He was a mover and shaker in the milk-making world, a president of the San Diego County Milk Producers’ Council.

Mystery graffiti inside office of Pete Verboom

So, what happened to his empire here? Why the desolation?

Development, of course, just like what happened to Mission Valley, and east Chula Vista, which used to be dotted with dairy farms. Then, environmental consciousness brought more pressures: the farms’ wastewater runoff started attracting attention; farmyard-loving cowbirds moved in and began replacing threatened least Bell’s vireos’ eggs with their own. Meanwhile, the nearby Pala casino opened for business, and brought extra traffic. To combat that, Caltrans took over land, including this part of the farm, to widen and straighten the 76. And a gift to developers: after years of controversy, the infamous Gregory Canyon landfill didn’t happen. No threat of smelly living! It was the answer to developers’ dreams.

But Pete always had the feeling that San Diego County had turned against dairy farmers anyway. He bought a farm in the “more friendly” Sacramento area. Since 1966, over 100 other dairy farmers have also voted with their feet.

So why are these 100 acres and their houses still rotting slowly into the fertile ground, neither farm nor housing developments? Why, at least, no straightened Highway 76? For starters, this is part of a 100-year flood plain. Then there’s the locals. They have fought to stop their bucolic settlement around the Pala Mission from becoming urbanized. So, this valley stays in a state of suspended animation, in some ways less developed than when Pete Verboom lived here.

Pete died February 25. Obituaries showed how this survivor of the Nazi occupation of Holland had become a beloved citizen in the Pala community.

Later, I see that back in 2000, the Reader’s Ernie Grimm interviewed Verboom for a piece about how unwelcoming San Diego was to dairy farmers. I look around. You’d think Verboom, this apparently jovial bear of a man, would merit a better memorial than such a shambles, these ruins of what he took a lifetime to create.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Luna Bay Booch's San Diego origin story

Woman owned hard kombucha brand brewed elsewhere, now sold locally
Next Article

Albert Brooks’ mockinfomercial introduction

The glad-handing human laugh track, assures his audience, “That was funny.”
One of fourteen abandoned houses on Pete Verboom’s two dairy farms
One of fourteen abandoned houses on Pete Verboom’s two dairy farms

It’s an odd feeling, driving along State Route 76, to come across this ghost settlement, a few miles west of the Pala Mission.

“Be careful of snakes,” my friend Kim shouts, “and people!”

I’ve persuaded him to stop near one of these abandoned houses so I can get a look-see.

Because it does feel a little eery. The silence, except for cars and trucks zipping past behind the trees, birds chirruping when things go quiet, a mysterious shuffle in the grasses — a snake? — a distant dog bark, and houses with brambles gradually wrapping themselves around them like giant Venus Flytraps. But this front building is surrounded by sycamore trees. “Pete Verboom No. 1,” says the sign above where the front doors have been ripped out. I venture inside. Gouged plaster walls, concrete floors, broken glass, and bare dirty white walls, with graffiti.

“STILL DEAD?” says one.

“In memory of my brother Richard Ainsworth. I love you!” says another.

The owner, I discover, was Pete Verboom himself. Turns out this was one of his two dairy farms, 100 acres big. Verboom built the dairies and 14 buildings on the property, starting in 1966. He was a mover and shaker in the milk-making world, a president of the San Diego County Milk Producers’ Council.

Mystery graffiti inside office of Pete Verboom

So, what happened to his empire here? Why the desolation?

Development, of course, just like what happened to Mission Valley, and east Chula Vista, which used to be dotted with dairy farms. Then, environmental consciousness brought more pressures: the farms’ wastewater runoff started attracting attention; farmyard-loving cowbirds moved in and began replacing threatened least Bell’s vireos’ eggs with their own. Meanwhile, the nearby Pala casino opened for business, and brought extra traffic. To combat that, Caltrans took over land, including this part of the farm, to widen and straighten the 76. And a gift to developers: after years of controversy, the infamous Gregory Canyon landfill didn’t happen. No threat of smelly living! It was the answer to developers’ dreams.

But Pete always had the feeling that San Diego County had turned against dairy farmers anyway. He bought a farm in the “more friendly” Sacramento area. Since 1966, over 100 other dairy farmers have also voted with their feet.

So why are these 100 acres and their houses still rotting slowly into the fertile ground, neither farm nor housing developments? Why, at least, no straightened Highway 76? For starters, this is part of a 100-year flood plain. Then there’s the locals. They have fought to stop their bucolic settlement around the Pala Mission from becoming urbanized. So, this valley stays in a state of suspended animation, in some ways less developed than when Pete Verboom lived here.

Pete died February 25. Obituaries showed how this survivor of the Nazi occupation of Holland had become a beloved citizen in the Pala community.

Later, I see that back in 2000, the Reader’s Ernie Grimm interviewed Verboom for a piece about how unwelcoming San Diego was to dairy farmers. I look around. You’d think Verboom, this apparently jovial bear of a man, would merit a better memorial than such a shambles, these ruins of what he took a lifetime to create.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Unemployment leads to Ocean Beach baking

The bread man
Next Article

Building paradise in San Diego

Mission Valley, Tijuana gardens, Otay Mesa, downtown skyscrapers, One Paseo, Rancho Santa Fe mansion
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer News — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close