For the last 13 years, the owners of Bluebird Canyon Farms have utilized their property as a research center for ecological practices.
By Sharael Kolberg
Scott Tenney and his wife, Mariella Simon, owners of Bluebird Canyon Farms, have been working to cultivate local land since 2010, using agricultural practices that are ecologically focused on their 13-acre plot. The family-owned and -operated urban farm, in the Bluebird Canyon neighborhood of Laguna Beach, serves as a hands-on model of sustainability, environmental education, homesteading and mentorship.
The property consists of an organic, biodynamic farmstead with market gardens that produce seasonal produce; a poultry flock; an aviary with honeybees; a demonstration aquaponics system; and several restored historical structures, as well as on-site conservation and restoration efforts focused on removing non-native and invasive species, reintroducing endemic chaparral species and reducing vegetative fuel loads in certain critical areas of the site.
Laguna Beach Magazine: What sets Bluebird Canyon apart from other farms?
Scott Tenney: The setting—a hillside farm overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Also, our agricultural practices are ecologically focused, with no mineral fertilizers, and we practice soil husbandry for cropping. We design and maintain spaces that allow beneficial insects to have a habitat. Bird and animal life allow the property to exist in a balanced ecological framework. Our agricultural philosophy and approach is to take exceptional care of the soil and promote microbiological consortium in the soil—no synthetic pest control regimens or mineral fertilizers, and no pesticides or herbicides.
LBM: What will you be harvesting this season?
ST: We prepare crops twice a year with a seasonal cropping plan. In the spring and summer, we will be growing things like fruit, edible flowers, greens, squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, chiles, culinary/medicinal herbs, and cut flowers. The “Seed Vault” is our seed conservation project. We collect fruiting and vegetative varieties, desiccate, catalog and store them under controlled conditions. Mariella also offers limited amounts of certain varieties for sale to the public.
LBM: Where can locals buy produce from the farm?
ST: Our produce can be purchased locally at The Salt Horse and Mercado Laguna. We also sell it to [meal delivery service] Summer’s Table.
LBM: Is there anything new going on at the farm?
ST: We offer hands-on educational programs that focus on [the concept that] “we grow things, we teach things, and we plan and do things.” We fabricate things in the workshops, we focus on crafting and we teach cooking in our conservation kitchen. We wanted to bring back some of the workshops, internships and teachings post-COVID. We’ve begun to offer some of these slowly. Our internships, … [which] typically last three to six months, are for young men and women ages 18 to 26. The program is designed for people who are at a transitional part of their life, who aren’t sure of who they are or who they want to be, and who have no job skills. We teach them how to work cooperatively, use resources wisely, be punctual [and] take instruction well. We focus on competency building—both soft and hard skills. Once they complete the program, we advocate for them when they’re applying for a job.
LBM: Do you have any tips to offer backyard gardeners?
ST: All gardens function really well when one cares for the soil. Be observant about what is going to grow well in your particular parcel. Don’t force it.
LBM: Are there any upcoming events or workshops?
ST: We are in the process of organizing upcoming workshops. They could include topics such as growing lettuce, designing a backyard poultry operation or beekeeping. Visit our website at bluebirdcanyonfarms.com for a class schedule.