Colleen Bennett - Sotheby's International Realty

SOWING SEEDS FOR LIFE KEEPS GROWING AND GROWING AND …

January 25, 2011
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Sowing Seeds for Life's Vicki Brown with Melody, who supervised the planting.

Sowing Seeds for Life's Vicki Brown with Melody, who supervised the planting.

For Vicki Brown, the CEO of La Verne-based DPI Labs who founded Sowing Seeds for Life to help feed the homeless and hungry, the food and produce keep tasting better and fresher than ever.

That’s because the nonprofit Sowing Seeds for Life has started a community garden at Falcon Ranch, a 45-acre spread owned by John Defalco in the foothills of San Dimas Canyon. What they grow will help feed the 6,800 people that Sowing Seeds serves every month. Extra produce can be sold to local farmers’ markets and restaurants that relish providing fresh, organic fruits and vegetables to their customers while promoting sustainable, low carbon-footprint farming practices.

Eddie's Italian Eatery
Vicki with George, right, and her son Greg and grandson.

Vicki with George, right, and her son Greg and grandson.

Over the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, about 30 University of La Verne students and professors trudged up the hill to prepare raised 4-foot-by-8-foot vegetable beds and start seedlings in the ranch’s greenhouse.

“These kids came to work and learn how to garden, using farming techniques more than 2,000 years old,” said Greg DeSmet, Vicki’s son who works for community garden sponsor Organic Nutrients, a leading manufacturer and distributor of frass (insect poop), a natural, salt-free fertilizer that constantly releases nutrients back into the soil.

Despite slogging through an unseasonably hot day, several students said they wanted to return to the ranch and help some more. And why not! Falcon Ranch is a menagerie of plants and animals in a rustic setting that is seemingly footsteps from a major urban center. The ranch supports cattle, horses, sheep, ducks, quail, a koi pond, cactus and guava groves, fragrant citrus and avocado orchards, pepper and oak trees, and resident interlopers like bears, deer, coyotes, frogs and, yes, rattlesnakes.

An outdoor fireplace on the ranch, which also hosts Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops.

An outdoor fireplace on the ranch, which also hosts Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops.

Yet the ranch is completely self-reliant. All the water is supplied via a natural spring and electricity is provided by a large solar station erected on the property. “We’re completely off the grid,” DeSmet said.

The ranch, despite its terraced hills and high-tech irrigation systems, is still very much a primeval paradise. George, who works for the Sowing Seeds for Life food bank, pulled a bug off a large Mexican cactus plant. When he squashed it, the bug emitted an exotic purple juice.

“They have used this as a sort of make-up or purple eye shadow for centuries in Mexico,” George said.

John Defalco, center with light blue shirt, owns Falcon Ranch and also served as Santa Claus at Sowing Seeds for Life's "Christmas in the Park" in December.

John Defalco, center with light blue shirt, owns Falcon Ranch and also served as Santa Claus at Sowing Seeds for Life's "Christmas in the Park" in December.

Inviting Sowing Seeds for Life to use a portion of its land to grow and harvest fruits and vegetables made perfect sense for Falcon Ranch. Sowing Seeds takes leftover produce, not quite fit for human consumption, to the ranch where it can be fed to livestock or made into compost.

Sowing Seeds for Life, which started as a garden in Brown’s backyard “to help kids understand what a bell pepper was” in their macaroni and cheese world, has truly come full cycle.

Brown’s seeds keep growing and growing and growing.

The fish pond.

The fish pond.

For more information on Sowing Seeds for Life, please go:

 

http://www.sowingseedsforlife.org/. DPI is located at 1350 Arrow Highway in La Verne, California, 91750, between I-10 and I-210 and adjacent to Highway 57. The Pantry is open the first and third Wednesday of each month, starting at 3 p.m. Again, volunteers and donations are always needed to sustain this effort.

To read more about Sowing Seeds for Life, enter “Vicki Brown” in the LVO search bar.

The ranch is self-sustaining.

The ranch is self-sustaining.

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