11.22.17

There’s no such thing as sleeping in at Apricot Lane Farms, but there are also biodynamic avocadoes, stone fruits and farm fresh eggs within arm’s reach at all times. Not a bad way to live.

Cruise up the coast from Los Angeles, take a few winding turns down a dusty dirt road or two, and eventually you’ll come upon the stunning grounds of Apricot Lane Farms. This sprawling slice of organic heaven, just 40 miles north of the big city, is home to goats, sheep, ducks, hens, cows, biodynamic certified avocado and lemon orchards, a vast vegetable garden, and over seventy-five different varieties of stone fruit. The farm is living proof that better farming practices are possible and can still yield a booming business.

The farm’s founders, filmmaker John Chester and his wife, Chef Molly Chester, believe in sustainability and transparency over all else. Their commitment to organic and biodynamic farming and other traditional practices is an impressive example for us all. For all of us that love eating as close to the earth and chemical-free as possible, learning about the Chester’s way of life is both instructional and fascinating.

Meet Molly and spend the day on the farm with her below, barn lunches included…

My Daily Work Routine Is....

Never the same thing twice! The farm is a diverse network of different systems, so, along with my husband and co-founder, John, I am typically checking in on different aspects of it each day. I wake at about 5:30 a.m. to care for my family before focusing on the farm. My day usually involves chatting with our core team, which might involve heading out to the orchard to taste a pomegranate crop or stopping by the garden to see how the carrot set took. Maybe I am stopping by the Thousand Oaks farmer’s market to meet a few customers, catching up on the details of the damage caused by the olive fruit fly or picking out a new variety of fruit tree for the orchard. I work most closely with our garden, sales, admin and culinary teams. John works more closely with the others. Lunch is with a rotating group of our team members at the barn at 11:30, and we all wrap about 4 p.m. However, the day never really ends for anyone who is responsible for anything living. I’m often out on the farm in the evening with my son and John, both enjoying the land and observing things. And since we have sheep, chickens, pigs, cows, ducks and more, there are many nights when John will be interrupted for one reason or another! It sounds like a full plate, but we have an amazing team of people working together towards healing this land!

The Easiest Things I Grow/Raise Are...

Hmmm… The easiest things we grow are probably avocados. Our systems are set, and there aren’t a whole lot of pest issues currently.

The Hardest Part of My Day Is...

Each year there is one really difficult thing that we are trying to figure out on the farm. It may be the invasive weed, morning glory (bindweed), snails or the Asian citrus psyllid. But it really feels daunting when you are in the middle of each issue — especially because we have to approach problems creatively and focus on prevention, since we are an organic and biodynamic operation.

The Most magical Part of My Day Is...

Experiencing the beauty of the farm, especially towards the end of the day when the light is just so magical.

Lunch Is Usually...

Food raised/grown on the farm and cooked by our culinary team. We practice a traditional-foods approach to cooking, which involves using techniques that maximize the nutritional properties of the foods; this builds upon the base of nutrient dense ingredients grown on the farm. So, each dish really does begin with the seed selection and soil fertility. From there, we use techniques such as souring, sprouting, fermenting, soaking, etc. to maximize the nutrition in the kitchen.

A Creative Aspect of My Job Is...

I really enjoy selecting the varieties of fruits and vegetables we grow on the farm. We take great care to maximize the flavor profiles of the food we grow, which starts with the selection of which variety to plant. It is a very artistic part of the process that I love. Also before becoming a farmer, I was a traditional-foods private chef, so I apply those skills to guide our culinary program, including the creation of product lines using our amazing fruits. We will have a bourbon lemon marmalade launching this spring 2018, and we will launch Apricot Lane Farms avocado oil in the summer of 2018.

A Day Never Goes By Without...

Every day I spend time in Block M where we grow over 75 different varieties of fruit trees, all planted on the contours of the land, so it is very beautiful and aesthetic while also being delicious and productive. It was my first baby, and I almost never go a day without spending time with it.

When The Sun Sets, I End My Day By...

Hanging out with my son, my husband or taking a dance class. I enjoy ballet, tap, jazz… really anything dance.

Foods I Eat That I Don't Grow Are...

Coconut, yum!

The Most Unusual Thing That Happens on a Farm Is...

Animals are funny and totally have personalities, so when thrown in the mix with humans, who can also be strange, there is bound to be something odd and likely humorous that will happen each day.

I Feel Most Rewarded By...

Seeing people appreciate our foods at the farmers’ market. The one-on-one connection with the people with whom we share our work is really rewarding.

The Crop That I Will Always Grow Is...

Hmmm…  Probably zucchini. I feel like if I didn’t live on a farm, God forbid, I would still have a zucchini plant somewhere in the summertime!

One Thing Most People Don't Know About A Farmer's Life Is...

How close they are to the cycles of life. Farmers experience death and life on a regular basis, which is brutal but it creates depth.

We View Our Role in The Community As...

We feel small- to medium-sized farms are a vital force for preserving the diversity and quality of food, which is such an important foundation for any community. We will forever work towards strengthening our connection to our local community by seeking out outlets to sell direct to our customers. It will also be important to work with the County and the State to improve regulations for small- to medium-sized farmers, so that more people are set up for success to bring artisanal food to their community. Right now, the regulations and financial obligations of permitting are very restrictive for the creative, small farmer.

I Wish People Understood...

How much goes into growing the food that they buy at the store or farmers’ market, and that having cheap food means that something is being sacrificed -– either the nutritional value of the food, the health of the animals or the quality of life of the folks working on the farm. Something has to give in order to buy three-dollar-a-dozen eggs.

Why Purchasing From A Farmers Market is Important...

Farmer’s markets strengthen the local food ties, ultimately allowing more people to farm in this way. But also, it is so much more delicious and nutrient dense to cook with fresh food close to the source.

We Have Fun By...

Making sure we have a great team of people to spend our days working alongside. We put a lot of care into the selection of our team members at Apricot Lane, and I feel it really pays off. I have so much appreciation and respect for each member of our team, and I truly enjoy spending my days with them.

Shopping Tips...

Grow your own food, or find a local farmer! The best dish comes from the best tasting ingredients, and the best tasting ingredients are seasonal and close to the source.

You Can Find Us...

Find Apricot Lane Farms at Southern California Farmers’ Markets in Thousand Oaks, Calabasas, Santa Clarita and Brentwood. We’re also proud to name these fine restaurants and grocers amongst our partners: Farmshop, Erewhon, Follow Your Heart Market, Joan’s on Third, Enegren Brewery, Gjelina, Pedalers Fork, Nozawa Bar, Gjusta, Melisse, Manuela Restaurant – Downtown LA, Palette Food and Juice, North Ranch Country Club, Four Seasons Westlake

My Most Loved Recipe Created From My Farm Is...

We just launched a whole host of recipes online, but one of my very favorite simple recipes is a lemon vinaigrette using farm lemons, of course, and sweetened with dates. It is from my cookbook, Back to Butter, and here’s the recipe!

Apricot Lane Farms’ Lemon Vinaigrette
Yields 1 ½ cups

Ingredients:

¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 large)
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
3 pitted Medjool dates, roughly chopped
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp freshly cracked pepper

Directions:

Place all ingredients in a blender. Blend until combined.

Use immediately, or refrigerate if not using the same day. Allow refrigerated dressing to warm to room temperature for 10 minutes before serving. Shake well before pouring.


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