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John Jackson of Whitney Ranch

Rachel Hommel

John Jackson of Whitney Ranch


John Jackson of Whitney Ranch

Growing Specialty Blueberries and Niche Crops in the Carpinteria Valley


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Name: John Jackson

Farm: Whitney Ranch

Location: 401 Lambert Road, Carpinteria, CA 93013

What they grow: Known for their blueberries, they farm more than a dozen varieties, with a typical growing season running from January-July. They also grow heirloom tomatoes, Meyer lemons, figs, persimmons, walnuts, cucumbers, squash, and avocados.

Where to buy: Saturday farmers market in downtown Santa Barbara. Additionally, their juicy blueberries can be found at Whole Foods in Santa Barbara and various other Southern California locations.

In season now: While a typical blueberry season lasts six months, Whitney Ranch has been blessed with more than 10 months of ripe blueberries. With the season ending, the farm encourages market goers to get them while they are still available. Meyer lemons, heirloom tomatoes, and avocados are also readily available.

Their story: When retirees Rachel and Ralph Whitney decided to become farmers more than 15 years ago, they were looking for a niche product. Told by an agricultural adviser that blueberries would not grow, they took their chances, experimenting with 12-13 different varieties. With the help of John Jackson, friend and former mortgage broker, they have created a successful 3.5-acre specialty farm in the Carpinteria Valley.

“In the beginning, there was a lot of trial and error,“ said Jackson. “You try various varieties that different people recommend, and sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Luckily, we continue to have more and more blueberries and customers keep coming back.”

While the Whitney’s enjoy experimenting with different garden crops, their main passion has always been blueberries. While a normal growing season lasts about six months, they are currently still harvesting blueberries.

“We are blessed to live in a very temperate zone, offering us a very long growing season,” said Jackson. “They say one out of every seven years is a lucky year. We feel like we’ve hit the jackpot this year. The amount of blueberries is absolutely amazing.”

A popular vendor at the market, they grow their produce all-naturally with no pesticides. Currently a year into becoming certified organic, the farm makes it own compost tea, keeping things as natural as possible. Seeing the same people week after week, Whitney Ranch has created its own reputation based off its community connections.

“Working the farmers market is a lot of fun. The people in Santa Barbara are very interested in local farmers and how their food is grown,” said Jackson. “You can’t ask these questions at the supermarket; you lose that personal interaction. It’s great to know we are making people happy. We always hear we have the best blueberries in the market!”

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