Story by Deidra Cross
Photos by Rachel Philipson
West Haven Farm celebrates its 20th anniversary this year under owners Carlos Aguilera and Lorena Mendoza who purchased the organic farmstead in 2019. Original owners John and Jen Bokaer-Smith started West Haven Farm in 1992 and when they decided to retire in 2019 they listed the farm property for sale.
“When the previous owners decided they wanted to retire from farming and it went up for sale in April 2019 a friend sent us the information and links to it,” Aguilera said. “At first, the answer was no. I had a job working in an HR position involving agriculture and we had a small child.”
Having a shared love of agriculture and of farming life, Aguilera and Mendoza found that they still had interest in the idea of taking over West Haven Farm and making it their own. They liked the location, the size and above all, the 10+ acre farm itself.
“We decided to make a deal to take over slowly,” Aguilera said. “We started working on the farm in the end of August of 2019 and by November of that year we owned it.”
Perched on a picturesque hill two miles outside of downtown Ithaca on the land of the EcoVillage in Ithaca, the NOFA-NY Certified Organic, LLC farm is protected by a permanent conservation easement so it can continue to produce food indefinitely without pressure from development.
“We don’t produce anything in mass and we don’t have machines to process hundreds of pints,” Aguilera said. “Everything that comes from us is harvested locally and organically. Larger companies will ship from Mexico or Chile for example. The true origins of the products are unknown and it increases the impact on the environment with packaging, production and transporting the produce. We also enjoy getting to interact with and know our community.”
Within the first year of new ownership, West Haven Farm filled every CSA share in 2020. Some members left and returned, yet the farm still retains all of its original CSA members. The farm boasts high tunnels and heated greenhouses used for growing lettuce, kale, swiss chard, parsley and arugula. It also utilizes storage crops of carrots, radishes, beets, potatoes, garlic and onions.
The farm provides a section lush with cherry and paste tomatoes, peas, flowers and an assortment of extras that CSA members can come and harvest at no cost, with no limitations, at any time that fits their schedule.
“To be truly sustainable, you have to grow a variety for winter. People really appreciate being able to get a fresh salad in winter here,” Mendoza explained. “For us it’s more than a dollar value. It’s not just a business. We respect the land and you can see the difference with fresh picked, certified organic foods grown with no chemicals. You can see kids playing on the playground here and see slopes, trees, birds and bugs. We’re not about overdeveloping. We’re growing life through nutritious foods and this is what we provide to our community.”
27 Rachel Carson Way, Ithaca
Deidra Cross is originally from Southwest Florida and has enjoyed writing in Finger Lakes Region for the last two decades.