Farm Bureau Interview
Posted by Jennifer Bantle on Feb 13th 2023
Featured Farm Interview Question
Grower Name: Jennifer and Kurt Bantle
Business Name: Bantle Avocado Farm
Business Location: Fallbrook, CA 92028(Not the mailing address)
How many acres do you have? What varieties do you grow?
We farm 12 acres of avocados (Hass). There are over 1000 trees. I also grow a few other things: lemons, passionfruit, oranges, grapefruit, limes, wine grapes, mangos and French lavender.
What do you find unique about San Diego County and farming in SD?
The most amazing thing about farming in San Diego is the sense of community. It is definitely a struggle and if it wasn’t for being surrounded by such a wonderful community we would have given up. My husband would love nothing more than to quit his day job and farm full time, but we’re not quite there yet. This is not a community of large corn, soybean, or wheat fields; this is a community of small family farmers doing what they can to produce some of the best seasonal food products and we should do everything we can to embrace our local food economy. Having worked and traveled around the world, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a place as amazing as San Diego when it comes to food and agriculture.
Who are the key players in your business?
We are a small family operation; my husband and I are the farmers. We use some seasonal help during harvest.
How did your business get started?
My husband and I moved to France for his work. While there for 2 years we became appreciative of the way the French approached food, especially fresh local food. When we moved home, we wanted to get involved in local agriculture. We saw the demise of avocado production in the area and began researching why so many farms were being left to die, the biggest cause has been water. Water is such a precious resource and my husband felt he could use some of his engineering background to farm avocados in a more efficient manner. Of course, when we started, no forecast planning models included factoring in a 100-year record breaking drought, record breaking temperatures, more country imports coming to market and some of the other anomalies we’ve seen over the last 11 years. Yet here we are, loving the ag community and doing everything we can to support and flourish in this great county. We took some semester long classes at Mira Costa college a few years back and learned how to build a website and advertise on social media. When the pandemic hit, we were prepared and already offering direct sales and socially distanced pickup from our home. We got rave reviews on the Carlsbad Nextdoor app for having the best avocados ever and we ship anywhere in the US.
We’ve had countless challenges over the last 11 years, but water and the cost of water has been the biggest challenge in farming avocados. The water rights and distribion in the state are out of control. Water in the central valley can be as low as $40 an acre foot, we are charged around 30 times that. We use city water because our first and only attempt at digging a well ended up as a 1500-foot dry hole. That was $23,000, I should have just gone to Las Vegas and bet it all on red. Kurt, my husband, who is a wireless engineer, spent 2 years designing and refining his wireless irrigation system. It’s helpful as we don’t live near the grove. Another challenge is labor. My husband and I do the majority of the work, but sometimes we need help. It’s difficult to find help and nearly impossible to find good help. In an effort to build healthy soils and stay healthy ourselves, we don’t use any herbicides or insecticides, so weeds are a never-ending issue. On a typical weekend, I can be found on the hillsides pulling weeds by hand to keep our 200 newly planted trees from suffocating and our sprinkler heads free from weeds. I also spend a lot of time pruning the trees because avocado trees are constantly growing.
What is the future vision for your farm/business?
We really want to diversify what we can bring to market in a responsible manner. In addition to constantly optimizing our water usage, we are looking at ways to improve the farm’s diversity. This year we are planning and planting dedicated bee forage crops to provide year-round pollen and nectar sources as we have 12 honeybee hives that we manage. We live in such a unique climate and are trying to take advantage of it to provide a healthy environment for our pollinator friends. Three years ago, we started a small vineyard to explore grape varietals not well known, but well suited to our microclimate and soil. Who knows, maybe there is a small winery in our future? We’ve been making wines for 10 years now and have won many awards at the San Diego Home Winemakers competition. This year we won a Best in Class for our 2019 Malbec grown in DeLuz near our grove. In addition to growing commercial produce, we find a lot of joy in just being able to grow food for ourselves, and to share with our family and friends. There is nothing as satisfying as picking something from your farm that was grown to perfection and appreciating how amazing it is to nourish yourself with it.
You can find more information on our website: Bantleavocadofarm.com or follow us on Facebook or Instagram at Bantle Avocado Farm.