The Pardee family grows lemons, gold nugget tangerines, and blood oranges on their San Diego County farm. In addition to citrus, their land produces avocados, and dragonfruit, with a few new crop possibilities such as pomegranates and figs. Working with the land to efficiently produce the best possible pieces of fruit has been the Pardees’ objective for the last 20 years.
Doug Pardee and his son Jim started the farm together in 1995 after Doug retired from a long and accomplished career in home building. Jim was a landscaper and had always loved trees. Farming became the outlet for their shared love of the land and development.
“Dad is top of the tree. He has such a high bar for ethics and honestly and creating the best possible product for the public. His company built thousands of homes for the public in California. They had a wonderful reputation and still do. He’s taken that philosophy into the farming business and has given us a great example,” Jim said about his 92 year old father, who continues to be involved in the business of the farm. “As for me, I love trees. I love to watch things grow. I love to nurture things. So, to have that as our business and be able to come out to the farm, see these beautiful trees, and know that we are supplying the public with this beautiful fruit, well, we’re all very proud of that.”
Jim’s wife Ingrid started keeping the books for the farm in 2008, and has loved being able to keep up with what’s happening in the fields through the bookwork. “It’s a lot of fun,” she said.
Chris Bailey, Jim’s nephew and Doug’s grandson, joined in with family farm about five years ago after a season of working in construction. He spent his teenage years riding around the farm with Doug, learning about the work and gleaning from his grandfather’s wisdom, but hadn’t expected he’d ever farm full time. He’s now the assistant farm manager and oversees the day-to-day operations on the farm, including managing water efficiency systems, fertilizer and pest control programs, and jumping in on impromptu games of soccer with the farm’s employees.
Jim first started moving toward organic production on the farm about a decade ago.
“We’re collectively all on board with organic farming. It’s just environmentally the best. It’s safe, and there is a better return,” he said about their family’s organic program.
Chris noted that organic fields have a different feel than land farmed conventionally.
“In the organic environment, you know, the grove is alive, the earth is alive. You see a lot of ladybugs flying around, and butterflies, and a lot of bugs from the biological fertilizers we use. When you dig down in the soil, there are lots of worms and microbial activity. You can just feel the difference in the soil,” he explained.
There are special advantages to farming in Southern California. The climate makes it possible for the Pardee family’s trees to produce double and triple crops. And though water conservation has been a very serious issue for a long time, the Pardees don’t face the same level of freeze scare that affect farmers further north. And as a bonus, some areas of the farm are less than an hour’s drive from the ocean, making it possible for Chris get in a little surfing every now and then before heading out to check on the trees.
The Pardees hope that their multi-generation family partnership will continue on for years and years to come.
“We hope to farm for as many years as possible. We’re very excited to have this land in the family, for maybe another 100 years. I would love to have my children and grandchildren continue to farm and be a part of this rich California history,” Jim said.