About Be Wise Ranch
Be Wise Ranch is a CCOF certified, organic family farm owned and managed by Bill Brammer, and a team of dedicated employees, many of whom have been with us since we started farming in 1977. "Certified organic" is a legal term which means that, by state and federal law, anyone who sells produce as "organically grown" cannot use synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers to grow any of their produce. We are certified by California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF), a non-profit certification organization, who comes out to inspect our farm and records at least once a year. We work hard to improve the quality of the soil, which we feel improves the taste of our fruits and vegetables, and makes the plants more resistant to disease. Our unique micro-climate, just eight miles east of the Pacific Ocean and 20 miles north of San Diego in the Sante Fe Valley and San Pasqual Valley, allows us to provide our customers with delicious, farm-fresh produce all year round.
We specialize in flavorful varieties of organic fruits and vegetables, and offer a wide selection of organic produce to both the national wholesale market and our local San Diego customers. Our wholesale varieties include organic slicing tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, strawberries, cucumbers, zucchini, and more. Our local San Diego customers can buy our produce through our Community Supported Agriculture Program, which delivers boxes of fresh vegetables to pick-up points in various neighborhoods throughout San Diego County. San Diego customers can also buy our produce at health food stores that have consistently supported Be Wise Ranch-such as Jimbo's in Escondido, Del Mar, Carlsbad, 4S Ranch, Cream of the Crop in Oceanside, Whole Foods Produce Market and People's Food Coop in Ocean Beach.
Why organic? Recently, when we have heard the representatives of conventional agriculture or biotech interests, (whose profits are threatened by increasing public support of organic farming), claim that organic farming is just a "marketing ploy," we have to laugh. There was no organic "market" to have a "ploy" in when Bill Brammer, the owner and founder of Be Wise Ranch, started farming on twenty acres in the foothills of northern San Diego County in 1977. At the time that the original founders of the current organic industry started growing organically in the late 70's, organic farming was very much a grassroots movement initiated by small family farmers who were committed to reducing the impact of toxic chemicals on humans, animals, and the environment. Our "market" consisted of small, independent health food stores and small family farms committed to the ideals of a sustainable agricultural system.
Although there was a small body of literature by early pioneers in organic farming, most farmers during this period had to learn successful organic practices on their own-a trial and error process that was often a risky and costly enterprise. Since agricultural research at the time was funded primarily by chemical companies, there was little scientific research on organic practices. In addition, we had little support from government agencies such as the Department of Food and Agriculture: when we called them in 1980, for example, to ask about organic certification programs, a representative informed us that we should just forget about organic farming as a commercial enterprise, since it couldn't it be done successfully.
With so little incentive, why did so many small family farmers risk their savings and livelihoods to farm organically? Like most organic farmers of the late 70's and early 80's, we were primarily motivated by a growing concern over the toxic accumulation of pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic fertilizers in humans, animals, wilderness environments, and our water supply. In the late sixties, public interest in the deleterious effect of synthetic pesticides and herbicides on wildlife populations was ignited by such books as Rachel Carson's widely read Silent Spring (1958-1964), a study on the effect of insecticides on songbird populations and the subsequent increase in insect problems. Consumers were interested in buying organic because they were concerned about the potential toxic residue left on their vegetables and fruits by these herbicides and pesticides. And there was also widespread concern about the accumulation of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers in the water supply, as they leached down from the fields into our ground water.
The early years. When Bill Brammer started Be Wise Ranch in 1977, he planted several hundred avocado and citrus trees, as well as a few specialty trees (peaches, nuts, pomegranates, apricots, etc) for his family use. It was hard work to overcome the initial learning curve of organic farming and marketing in this new industry. He sold his produce to farmers markets and wholesale distributors, Farming was hard work, but believed that if he could develop a method of farming that relied upon healthy plants and rich soil, instead of feeding the plant synthetic nutrients through the water system alone, He could contribute to the reduction of pesticide residue in human and animal populations, as well as in our groundwater supply.
Our avocado and citrus orchards became over time a living example of the compatibility of organic farming and healthy wildlife populations. The songbird population in our orchards (which border on a wildlife preservation area) has exploded, and we are seeing more species than ever before. Swallows (who consume large numbers of insects) nest in our eaves, and our trees are full of many species of nesting birds. Two pairs of red-tailed hawks scout the ground for rodents, and local coyotes and snakes keep our rabbit, squirrel, and rodent populations down. Deer, bobcat, racoons, ferrets, foxes, and possums regularly stroll through our orchards, and frogs serenade us during mating season. Our cat, Bruiser, who was himself a feral inhabitant of the orchard before we rescued him, keeps the house and yard free of unwanted rodents, and lets us know when a coyote or rattlesnake is cruising through the front yard. We love being a part of this rich natural world, with its own seasonal balances and rhythms, and when times are tough, the singing birds remind us of the many reasons we continue to pursue this difficult occupation.
After planting our orchards, we leased some land from a neighbor to grow vegetables, specializing in early and late season zucchini, tomatoes, and cucumbers. We soon expanded to a larger parcel in the Santa Fe Valley a mile away, and developed a dedicated and knowledgeable team of workers, many of whom have been with us since we began. In these early years, we shared information with our fellow organic farmers to develop and refine contemporary organic growing practices. We also lobbied the universities to do more research on organic methods, with minor success. We were lucky to have a UC farm extension advisor, Faustino Munoz, who fully supported organic farming before it was mainstream and helped us find solutions to many growing problems.
Organic farmers, far from developing some kind of agricultural "cult," have over the years developed sustainable approaches to pest control and fertilization that are now being incorporated into conventional farming practices, providing responsible mainstream solutions to the increasing problem of pesticide overuse and the subsequent resistance of insect populations. There are now scientific research departments and foundations that specialize in organic farming practices, although there is much more to be done in this regard.
Certification for consumer confidence. In the mid-80's, we joined California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF), which certified organic growers. Bill saw the need for a more business-oriented model for CCOF's organization that could help small farmers better market their CCOF-certified produce. He also saw a need for legal standards for organic growing and the means for enforcing those standards. He was elected State President of CCOF on this platform, and served for five years. During that time he worked with Bob Scowcroft to help formulate and lobby for California and federal laws that would prescribe and enforce the legal standards that all organic growers must adhere to in order to sell their product as organic-laws that are now in effect. Bill was also a founding member of the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF), which has been instrumental in obtaining increased funding for organic farming research, and he has served ten years on its board.
Developing a local market. In 1993, our business was primarily directed toward the wholesale market, since we no longer had time to sell at farmers markets. We strongly believed, however, that our San Diego customers should have direct access to local, freshly-picked organic produce, and so we decided to start a Community Supported Agriculture Program (CSA), where customers could subscribe to the farm as members, and receive boxes of produce delivered to various drop-off points in neighborhoods throughout San Diego County. The CSA has been especially rewarding, because our members give us direct testimonies about the often life-changing benefits of organic produce.