At just 18 years old, resident Ellie Honan decided to leave her comfortable home in Minnesota to a farm in Kenya where she tested her physical boundaries.
“I took a year off before college to travel in Kenya and during that time, I worked on the farms of the various families with whom I stayed,” said Honan, who now lives in Encinitas. “In rural Kenya, everyone I knew was growing the majority of the food they consumed. We would shuck maize, walk it down to the village mill, and then cook Ugali all in the same day.”
Despite the physical challenges that came with the African adventure, Honan described her time there as “deeply fulfilling” to produce one’s own food.
Ten years later, Honan has brought her agricultural experience to Coastal Roots Farm where she serves as the production assistant manager, spending much of her day on the farm. Coastal Roots Farm is a nonprofit with 17 acres of land in the beach city. The farm produces vegetables that’s shared with the less-fortunate and hosts educational programs for the public.
Honan, 28, joined the nonprofit four years ago as an apprentice before joining the leadership team.
“What first attracted me to the farm was its diversified approach to regenerative agriculture,” Honan said. “I was also inspired by Coastal Roots Farm’s approach to food justice. In college, I focused my thesis on food hubs as a means of creating access to fresh local food in low-income communities and Coastal Roots Farm’s focus on food justice and food accessibility felt well-aligned with those ethics.”
Although Honan has worked on several farms in the last decade, she said she finds various aspects of her job duties at Coastal Roots Farm to be most fulfilling.
“I am extremely grateful to be in a line of work that involves using my physical body and working outside with plants and soil,” Honan said. “It’s powerful to participate in our food distributions at Camp Pendleton and Vista Community Clinic and see the gratitude people hold for fresh food. I believe that healthy food is a human right and I’m grateful to be a part of sending that message to some of the hardest working members of our community.”
Coastal Roots Farm may provide food to others, but Honan encourages the public to learn to grow their own food as well.
“Farming is certainly not for the thin skinned or faint of heart,” Honan said. “It is a challenging, humbling, and physically exhausting livelihood and often not very lucrative. You will always feel like you have more to learn and continually be at the fate of your environment. But if you have the endurance and are willing to live simply, farming offers an infinite number of fresh starts.”
For more information about Coastal Roots Farm, go to www.coastalrootsfarm.org. The farm is open to volunteers from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Tuesdays and 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Wednesdays.