Kristina and Warren James could not have imagined the fairytale-like wonder they’d create when embarking on their journey to create a homestead. Now, surrounded by more than 20 food-bearing varietals over five acres, berry vines, fig and nut trees are abuzz with plentiful pollinators, they are reaping the rewards of fresh eggs, goat milk, their first avocados, and hives where honey flows from a tap. 

Why this project?

Her family’s health as well as her wellness blog Tempted Temple sparked Kristina’s interest in the project. “It’s important to have a connection to our food. If we're consuming animals that are unhealthy and vegetables from the grocery store laden with chemicals and pesticides, our bodies are not going to be well. We also want to regenerate our soil and stimulate our ecosystem, as well as create a safe habitat for local animals living on the protected wildlife preserve that’s part of our property. Bringing in native plants and avoiding pesticides has really helped that wildlife,” says Kristina James.

How did they begin? 

Cultivating a homestead requires planning and patience.The family partnered with Daron Joffe’s consulting company Farmer D to help guide their process.  Joffe has designed and built a wide range of community farms and gardens all over the country, including Coastal Roots Farm in Encinitas. "Farmer D has been instrumental in helping us draw up a clear site plan, understand companion planting and harvest times,” Kristina James says. 

Kasi Munoz, director of design and operations for Farmer D, explains the benefits of employing the help of an expert team: “Our clients find that the best place to start is to get help developing a clear plan. The process clarifies a phased approach, which helps make informed decisions on how to proceed with building out their vision.” 

The family began by amending the soil. “The first six months, we put in all the soil amendments, then we planted a variety of trees. In our third phase, we’ve planted vines that wrap around the tree trunks,” says Kristina James.

Layers of Biodiversity

This planting method, known as a food forest, is an agricultural methodology that mimics the layers of a forest, but with food plants. “It has a more natural 'organization' as compared to orchards, and layers of plants including, fungi, ground covers, vines, flowers, shrubs, plus small, medium, and large fruit and nut trees. In working on homestead projects we make sure to incorporate an array of plants to support the biological diversity in the area which guards against pests and disease,” says Munoz.

One unexpected benefit of planting a food forest is the beauty it creates, “Our food forest blows everybody away. It’s breathtaking—wild and ever changing, not like manicured rows. It's drawn in so many local pollinators. It feels like an absolute fairy tale,” describes Kristina James. 

The Rancho Santa Fe homestead also includes goats, chickens, pigs, and bees. The family raises goats for both milk and fire control. Kristina is excited to have two nursing goats to provide raw milk. “It’s loaded with probiotics normally killed during pasteurization.” The family employs a local beekeeper from Bee Leaf, USA who has helped install Flow Hives. This new innovation which allows honey to drain straight from the hives using taps is one of Kristina’s favorite perks of her project.

Raising animals for meat is tricky with two kids, ages 12 and 15. The family recently processed two pigs with the help of a butcher who comes out on site. “The animals aren’t traumatized by being loaded up on a trailer where stress hormones are running through them,” explains Kristina James. ”The kids do get emotionally attached but they are slowly getting over the heartache, coming to an understanding of their food and our role in helping give the animals a great life.”

What's next? 

Kristina James reports the next stage of the homestead is to build a greenhouse and garden shed and put in raised beds. She envisions this large garden area as a space to harvest as much healthy food as they can to feed their family and share the excess with neighbors and those in need.

The end goal

Kristina James hopes to offer classes in the garden and to use the homestead to educate the community about the possibilities of regenerative farming, real food, and true gut health. But her main inspiration is her family and inspiring them to get out into nature and learn to do a lot of the work themselves. She says, “Getting my family out in the sunshine’s natural vitamin D—that part of it is so humbling. It keeps us grounded and is so therapeutic.”

About the Contributor
Cherie Gough
Cherie Gough is an award-winning freelance writer based in San Diego. She is passionate about food equity and loves writing about innovative people finding positive solutions.Find her on Instagram @cgoughwrites.