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More than 300 people, including several local officials, converge on the Leichtag Foundations Coastal Roots Farm on Jan. 24. Photo by Tony Cagala
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Food Forest Festival draws hundreds to Leichtag grounds

ENCINITAS — More than 300 people, including several local officials, converged on the Leichtag Foundations Coastal Roots Farm on Jan. 24.

The goal was simple: plant the seed that will feed the community.

The volunteers planted 1,000 trees, from figs to pomegranates, that Leichtag representatives hope will become a so-called food forest that will provide fruit for people to forrage during daylight hours and teach future farmers agricultural lessons.

The planting was part of the Leichtag Foundation — a Jewish philanthropic organization — celebration of Tu B’Shvat, the Jewish New Year for the Trees.

“Food forests are becoming an increasingly important source of locally grown food for communities around the country,” said Daron ‘Farmer D’ Joffe, founding director of Coastal Roots Farm, a nonprofit affiliated with Leichtag, and director of Agricultural Innovation and Development at the Leichtag Foundation.  “These trees will provide a nutritious option to be purchased by or donated to our local community, as well as an educational agricultural experience unlike anything else.”

Much of the produce from the future food forest will go to people who potentially can’t afford to keep a steady source of food in the household, which hearkens back to an ancient Jewish tradition of leaving a corner of one’s land for the poor and strangers.

Food forests have gained popularity both locally and across the country, as a new wave of urban agriculture has taken footing, partly the result of the economic recession. Encinitas Union School District has planted a smaller such forest along the property line of its farm lab on Quail Gardens Drive.

Plans for the forest on the Leichtag grounds have been in the work for more than a year, as much of the grounds lay fallow during the septennial celebration of Shmita, during which time in Jewish tradition fields were supposed to be untouched for a year.

Joffe said the forest will eventually also work as a daytime trail that will run from the property’s east side along Quail Gardens Drive to its west side along Saxony Road. The food forest will also provide an experiential education opportunity to demonstrate Jewish agricultural traditions to the broader community, Joffe said.

“What’s unique about growing fruit trees in Encinitas is the varieties that are able to grow in this region,” Joffe said. “We are able to grow not only the common fruits we all love, but also a wide variety of tropical and sub-tropical fruits most people have never experienced before. Fruits like Ice Cream Beans, Jobiticabas and Sapotes for example”.

Among those in attendance at the tree planting were Encinitas City Councilman Tony Kranz and former councilwoman Teresa Barth, both avid supporters of the Leichtag Foundation.