An early morning coffee buzz usually starts with a long line, shouted orders, and watered down caffeine illusions. The actual profile of the coffee bean has been masked by a charcoal like “roast,” leaving us coffee drinkers chained to the likes of Starbucks and Peet’s. Yet there is hope in our very own backyard. Just a few degrees (18 exactly) outside the confines of the “Bean Belt,” which traditionally occupies the region between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn, we unravel a unique flavor specimen. Within the rolling mountains of Goleta, Good Land Organics is changing the rulebook (and geography) of coffee production.
Two miles from the Pacific Coast, the 42-acre Good Land farm boasts a sub-tropical wonderland of exotic crops, bringing Central America to the Central Coast. With demand for coffee quickly outgrowing supply, farmer Jay Ruskey took on the challenge, formulating a feasibility study for growing coffee. Like a mad (and brilliant) scientist, he embraced the unconventional, finding success in experimentation. Redefining the latitudes of successful coffee making, Ruskey is proudly the first farmer to sell locally grown and processed coffee in California. Certified organic, the Good Land farm is a prime example of cross branding, with each crop telling a diverse and colorful story.
This story begins on site, 650 feet above the coastal hills of Santa Barbara. The morning coffee tour begins with a sampling of one of 13 varieties of coffee currently grown on site. The rich, bold flavor instantly awakens the palette, just in time to sample Good Land’s famous cherimoyas. Our agricultural education begins, as Ruskey explains the process from seedlings to servings. Working backwards through the life cycle of the bean, we start with the roasting. It’s 10:15am, and the smoky seduction of fresh roasted beans is nothing short of intoxicating. This procedure is done in small batches, lightly roasted to highlight the flavor and profile of the bean itself. “Charbucks” this is not.
The fragrant perfume follows us into the fields, as we are introduced to other leading characters in the Good Land family. From creamy avocados to caviar limes and heavenly passion fruit, Ruskey has successfully cultivated an agricultural masterpiece. But enough tasting…it was time to get to work. Bucket in tow, it was time to pick the coffee berries – a quest to find the perfect dark red beauty. The hands-on activity gave way to a friendly form of competition, with your very own placing 1st and gaining full bragging rights.
Returning to the barn, the coffee berries are mechanically crushed to uncover the seeds, which will then be dried, roasted, and packaged. And here is where the life cycle both ends and begins in a never-ending process of agricultural wonder. This eight-year process all starts with one seedling, the seedling of curiosity. This was not just a coffee tour, but rather an exploration into the standards of taste.
“You can’t grow a cup of coffee for everyone. We are growing an experience,” said Ruskey. Experiential learning at its finest, these tours offer an education in innovation. Ruskey has become steward of the good land of Goleta, building community by making local agriculture exciting again. Creating an educational model for the future, the seeds have been planted.
LoaTree Team Writer
(photo credit, Rachel Hommel)