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Inspiring Stories Series: SD Voyager

Today we’d like to introduce you to Stepheni Norton.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Stepheni. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there. My husband and I purchased the Wallace D. Dickinson homestead in February 2012, as our forever home.

When we bought the property, I was in the mist of pre-deployment work-up preparing for a 10-month OCONUS deployment – in March I was bit by a tick on San Clemente Island off the coast of South California. Unfortunately, Soutmyn California doctors are not Lyme literate, so I was left sick & untreated for a 10-month deployment.

Almost a year later, I returned home very ill & was bounced around from doctor to doctor to find a cure. After 2.5 years of fighting an undiagnosed illness & a year of looking for a Doctor, in July, 2014 I was diagnosed with Lyme disease & related co-inflections.

Right away, I started daily IV treatment. My doctor wanted me to eat as fresh & healthy as possible. Each day after treatment Mike would drive me home & try find fresh organic food to make for dinner.

This is when we noticed fresh produce was hard to come by in National City.

So after a few months of trying everything from CSA to personal chefs, I asked my doctor if I could be outside & garden a little.

My Doctor rolled his eyes and told Mike to make sure I didn’t kill myself. Mike, my cousin and my dad built raised beds for me and planted some fruit trees.

We started growing conventional crops at first.

But a few months later I started having reactions to food, that I had never had before. Specifically corn, I count eat conversational corn without having an allergic reaction. I started researching and found that non-GMO and non-manually hybridized seeds had lower histamine responses for me. We grew heirloom corn and when I didn’t have a reaction to it, we converted the farm 100% to heirloom varietals.

For people that have to have clean and safe food for medical reasons, its vitally important. For those that don’t, its amazing food.

Those few trees & garden patches are now 16 raised boxes, two orchards, 4 hedgerows of coffee, a hop patch & 20 in ground rows. We’ve increased the tree canopy by 52 trees and area farming 1/4 of an acre total.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?

I was very ill when we started growing, I ended up being medically retired from the military and 100% disabled. The farm gave me purpose again, but the red tape for the license was a bear.

We are the first license farm in national city since the early days of the city when the area was all agriculture. So they city didn’t know how to license us. After about 12 months of continually working with them, we got licensed. But, then we had to get insurance. That took another 6 months to find someone that would insurance a small farm. We pay the same amount as a 300+ acre farm.

Being a disrupter or the “first ever” is great, but there is a price to pay in both time and money to get there.

Dickinson Farm – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition? We grow 100% heirloom varietals. Our current crops date back to the year 700, and we don’t grow anything that is past WWII. To our knowledge, we are the other farm doing that in California, and possibly the country.

We sell direct to customer via Specialty Diet CSA, CSA and Farm Stand. As well as direct to Chefs.

Our Specialty Diet CSA was designed for patients receiving on-going out-patient care, but is good for anyone on a specialty diet. Anti-Inflammatory Diet, Diabetes, etc.

​It’s a service designed for a person’s specific nutritional needs, allowing them to purchase freshly harvested, locally grown, organic and heirloom produce from the safety and comfort of their computer for delivery directly to them.

We also grow produce for events. Our “Event Farm”, is unique and a first of its kind offering developed by Dickinson Farm.

Our experience with diversified farming and small space planning makes us the perfect choice for anyone having a special event who cares about farms and food and wants to plan and help plant the food for their event. As the Event Farmer the customer works with a one of our partner Chefs to plan their menu, then work with us to translate that into a plot plan.

What is “success” or “successful” for you? To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate the beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded! ~ Emmerson

Each aspect of this quote is true in my personal and business life, but to be the most important is to leave the world a bit better, and tending to the soil is a part of that.

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