Q&A with Stepheni Norton of W.D. Dickinson
What was your motivation for starting W.D. Dickinson?
We never intended to farm. The Dickinson Farm journey began after purchasing the historic W.D. Dickinson homestead, subsequently deploying, and falling ill. After almost three years of misdiagnosis, I was properly diagnosed with stage 3 Lyme Disease and promptly started daily IV treatment.
A few months of struggling to find fresh and clean food that did not contraindicate with my medication, my Type A came out, and I determined I could just grow my own food. So, sitting in the IV chair I designed a raised bed potager style garden, directly outside the kitchen with a small orchard across the south end of the property. Two seasons later, and still in treatment, the military medically retired me.
Once again, time in the IV chair was a benefit; I spent it learning the business of farming, designing a full farm layout, and drafting the business plan.
Dickinson Farm, an heirloom fruit, vegetable, and herb farm, is the first and only licensed farm in National City since the early 1900s. Now rebranded to W.D. Dickinson Farm, House, Mercantile in four years our business continues to grow, in size and offerings. From a 300 square feet garden for personal use to a 2/3-acre farm that now includes a farm store, small-batch pantry and home good product lines, home delivery, private event space, farm dinners, homesteading workshops, and private food and farm business consulting.
How is W.D. Dickinson adapting to the pandemic?
Like most businesses we did a hard stop and had to regroup. For the safety of our employees, the food system, and ourselves we closed on our site store, stopped selling at the Bonita farmers market, and canceled all workshops, tours, and dinners through the end of the summer.
With our event and in-person sales halted and restaurant sales significantly reduced, we put all our energy into what we still safely could do. We expanded our online store, increased the available Mixed Bags (aka Farm Share / CSA) of our heirloom fruits, vegetables and herbs, and added no-contact doorstep delivery.
How are you working to help others?
We are continually looking for ways to provide connection and access to those in need. From our first sale in 2016, a part of our business has always been focused on providing heirloom fruits, vegetables, and herbs for my family and others with similar specialty diet needs. Switching completely from in-person retail to online, non-contact delivery has helped us streamline our efforts and increase our reach to at-risk customers by over 300%.
What motivated W.D. Dickinson to become an Edible San Diego business member?
Anytime we travel (when we could travel) we looked to the area Edible Magazine to eat and experience ‘like a local’. Edible San Diego does just that for San Diego area residents, businesses, and travelers alike, as the source of truly San Diego, farm to table knowledge. We are proud to be a member with like-minded businesses and to connect our fellow locavores.
What do you like to cook at home these days?
I collect historic cookbooks, my oldest is from the 1600s. I love taking these old recipes and interrupting them with today’s ingredients. One of my current favorites is “Stewed Lettuces” from Modern Cookery by Eliza Acton (1845). It sounds horrible but is a beautiful warm salad with croutons, and a perfect way to use up bolted lettuces, hearty greens, and stale bread.
Explore the benefits of becoming an Edible San Diego business partner today.