By focusing on providing top quality heirloom, non-hybrid produce, Safe Haven Heirloom Farms in Orosi, CA grows a wide range of vegetables, including heirloom tomatoes, corn, peppers, squash and more. They also produce heirloom seeds, raise organic beef and chicken and are presently experimenting with raising tilapia at their farm. Currently, Safe Haven Heirloom Farms uses greenhouses donated by Agra Tech, Inc., one of the world’s leading manufacturers of commercial greenhouses and greenhouse growing systems. Agra Tech has stepped up to help this farm and guided them through the process of growing produce in soil bags using ATI greenhouses.
Led by Bryan and Karla Barnes, Safe Haven Heirloom Farms grows everything naturally and sustainably, but maybe one of the most important things they do is teach and mentor students through Growing with Torah, a program in which they have dramatically impacted the lives of young people in this agricultural training school that starts with the beginning of the growing season in March, and ends in the fall with the Feast of Tabernacles Harvest Festival. In this program, students plant, grow, and harvest produce for weekly boxes of high quality, non-GMO, heirloom produce, that are then distributed to those in California who purchase shares.
Learning important life skills in an Agra Tech greenhouse
In this program, students plant, grow, and harvest produce for weekly boxes of high quality, non-GMO, heirloom produce, that are then distributed to those in California who purchase shares.
Bryan Barnes loves being an heirloom farmer, but his life’s mission and calling is much more than that. “Life on the farm is full of opportunity to learn and teach important life skills–like hard work, dedication to detail, patience, tenacity and humility and a work ethic—they’re all important. It has been said that if you can be a farmer you can do anything. At Growing with Torah, we are all about getting back to our roots, and it is a rewarding experience to see this come to life in our student volunteers as they get their hands dirty and get involved in Growing in Torah.”
Safe Haven Heirloom Farms is a CSA farm, which means it practices Community Supported Agriculture. In this business model, the community supports small farmers and enables them to grow. “In another sense people become partners with their farmer, “Barnes said. “That way the community can rest assured that they’ll always receive, quality fresh produce that has been grown in a way they want it grown. In our country today, extremely large farms are the norm and ‘production’ type of farming is the standard. This also includes GMO and hybrid seeds that companies like Monsanto are now patenting. Now more than ever, small farmers are growing a large variety of produce and that’s why people who believe in this way of growing should partner with us.”
Since 2011, Barnes has been attending the annual World Ag Expo and each year Agra Tech has given its demonstration greenhouse to Safe Haven Heirloom Farms for free. The farm grows 30-40% of its produce in its Agra Tech greenhouses, using one 20’ x 60’ greenhouse; another 20’ x 100’ greenhouse and their newly-added 25’ x 35’ Agra Tech Thermolator greenhouse.
“Agra Tech’s Jim Bergantz and the rest of the professionals at ATI have been incredible to donate these greenhouses to us,” Barnes explained. “They’ve quickly become a big part of what we’re doing here at Safe Haven Heirloom Farms and without them and their generosity, we could not be doing what we’re doing now. ATI is helping us to make our farm and our program strong and that’s why it’s growing in so many ways. Jim has been very encouraging and very supportive. He took a look at our farm and offered us some very valuable advice. But importantly, he’s just been here when we need him. Our relationship with Agra Tech has been a miracle and an amazing experience. It’s a great company and their people are exceptional.”
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It has worked out well for all of us and it’s a great relationship. Of the 274 greenhouses we have, all but 19 of them are from Agra Tech. Jim Bergantz, our rep from Agra Tech sells them to us; John Pound advises us: Anita Pound helps to engineer the structures and Ray Pound’s company Ag-Con in San Jose, CA does all of the construction. The people at Agra Tech are easy to work with and every time we’ve gone to them with requests, design modifications and things like that—they’re always willing to make it happen for us.