Girling found a 2.5-acre undeveloped plot of land surrounded by upscale homes on Avocado Road.
Anyone with a TV may get the impression Oceanside is more Green Acres than Baywatch.
Developer Integral Communities has so far dumped $1.4 million on TV ads and other promotions to convince locals that a Yes on Measure L will turn Oceanside into a pastoral wonderland.
Water bill dinner
But the fact is Oceanside’s two most famous real-life farmers say the Yes on L television campaign is deceptive. Oceanside’s Grammy-winning singer-songwriter-turned-farmer Jason Mraz says a yes vote on L will pave over existing farmland to allow for the building of the North River Farms project and its 585 new homes.
Chef Davin Waite at dinner
And Luke Girling, who founded the popular, organic-conscious Cyclops Farms five years ago, says he was asked by Integral to help them market North River Farms to the public. “They were coming at me like they were trying to buy me out.” Girling says he immediately rejected any overtures from the Newport Beach developer to be a supporter. “I’ve been against it the whole time.”
Girlings. “I was so pissed at the whole farm-to-table thing.”
Seven years ago Girling, an Oceanside born-and-raised surfer/skater, took a nine-month course in agroecology and sustainable food systems at UC Santa Cruz. He says he was immediately hired at a now closed farm-to-table restaurant in Carlsbad which raised much of its own produce on site. That was when farm-to-table was becoming a thing.
“I was so pissed at the whole farm-to-table thing,” says Girling who says he has always been a straight-shooter. “A lot of it was so fake. I wanted to start my own farm and be honest about it. I wanted to start something true. I wanted to sell real organic produce to restaurants and directly to the public.”
Girling said he was driving around the Fire Mountain area of South Oceanside, “…looking for an empty pool to skate in when I found it.” He found a 2.5-acre undeveloped plot of land surrounded by upscale homes on Avocado Road. He said he eventually talked the Northern California-based landlady to let him use the property to launch the all-organic Cyclops Farms in 2015. Cyclops started supplying local cafes and selling to the public every Saturday.
Dinner guests plant watermelon seeds.
“Cyclops Farms was ground zero for the new wave of restaurants in Oceanside,” says Davin Waite of the vegan café, The Plot. “He was right there as a key supplier for the first wave of Oceanside restaurants when the Fish Joint, Privateer, and Flying Pig started. Then he was a key player for the second wave when The Wrench and Rodent, Mission Avenue Bar and Grill, and Whet Noodle launched.”
Girling built a loyal following of locals who wanted to buy his homegrown strawberries, cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, melons, chard, and kale from his Avocado Road farm stand. “We used to have a line of 75 to 100 lining up waiting to get in when we opened,” says Girling.
But that five-year tradition ends this Saturday. Girling is closing Cyclops Farms in Oceanside after five years.
“I’m so tired. And I got hit real hard with this Covid.”
Girling says when Covid first hit, his Saturday roadside business actually picked up for a while. “The stores were running out of stuff. The demand got so big and I didn’t want to turn people away. So I started to [harvest] food prematurely just to meet the demand. When I started to limit what I would sell, people would get pissed at that.”
Girling notes the irony that quality food buyers aren’t themselves always quality people.
“A lot of people who do care about quality of food are douche bags… Then came Black Lives Matter and everyone started getting real sensitive about everything. People just seemed like they were always on edge. They would get mad at me if other customers would get within six feet of them.”
Girling says that some of the other organic farms in North County switched to delivery. “I refused to do that. I’m the only one who stayed open. All the others went to delivery boxes.”
Waite of The Plot says another factor always working against Cyclops was the price of water. “Oceanside has one of the highest rates for water than anywhere in the county.”
In spite of loads of positive press, Girling says no one from the city of Oceanside came to say hello. “Not the mayor, or a city councilman, or anyone from the city ever came by to see us.”
Girling says in order to pay for the $1,000-plus water bills he started hosting monthly “water bill dinners” where guest chefs would serve a four-course dinner. Guests paying up to $100 each would be treated to a live band and have access to beer or wine.
Cyclops was used by Nixon, JuneShine Hard Kambucha and Kashi for their Christmas dinners. He says the water bill dinners brought a positive cash flow. At least in the beginning. “We’d usually have 60 or 70 people. One time we had 160.” Girling says he paid the chefs about a $1,000 and over $2,000 in fees for one-day alcohol licenses. But he says the water bill dinners ended when insurance fees made the events non-profitable.
Cyclops’ water bill dinners ended in late 2018.
Girling says the good part of the Oceanside Cyclops Farms is that its success allowed him and wife Frances to qualify to buy a new home with adjoining farmland in Fallbrook. He says from that farm property he grows flowers, cherry tomatoes, and bell peppers that he now sells at area farmers markets and at stores including Jimbos, Frazier Farms, and Major Market.
“My kids are home-schooled so this is where I need to be right now. And you never know, in a year, if it isn’t developed, I may come back to 1448 Avocado Road.” He says six to eight new homes could be built on that 2.5 acres. “A house right next door just sold for $1.5 million,” says Girling.
The last Cyclops Farms Saturday farm stand produce sale is October 3. Girling’s Cyclops Farms leaves the property October 31.