There are no signs on the street outside of Stone Farms. And it’s likely a few people have wondered if their smart phones malfunctioned as they drive the uneven road to the satellite property of Southern California’s largest brewery.
But Stone Farms is meant to be a different experience than its Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens sister sites. Stone Farms just takes the “garden” part a little more seriously.
The 19-acre North Escondido organic farm operated as La Milpa Organica until Stone Brewing Co. took over in March 2011. It was opened to the public in June 2013, and in a city saturated with craft beer experiences, is establishing itself as unique.
Still a fully functioning farm, the property produces between 15 and 20 percent of the vegetables used at the nearby bistro. From braising and salad greens, to herbs and hops for specials brews, Stone Farms’ vegetation finds its way into plenty of pints - and probably onto just as many plates. If you’ve recently enjoyed a Lavender Pale Ale, Belgian Passion Project, or Dandelion IPA, chances are the lavender, passion fruit and dandelions were grown there.
However, Stone Farms aspires to be far more than just, well, a farm. Its sprawling landscape provides a multitude of options - from grabbing a beer in the tasting room and walking the grounds to playing horseshoes, or just finding some shade and having a picnic. Kids will enjoy the live animals (there are peacocks, a pig, chickens and a rabbit), and there is a waterfall-adorned stage that features live music on Wednesday and Friday nights.
Farm manager David Solomon, who worked for La Milpa Organica before Stone, hopes visitors will experience even more.
“We’re part of that ‘closing the circle’ Stone is always talking about,” he said recently. “We’re community oriented and love that people enjoy themselves when they come to the farm. But we also hope to give patrons a little inspiration on gardening. Let them see how it’s done and get conversations going. Farming represents the concept of self-independence and sustainability to me. You’re eating something that came from the love, time and energy put into it. They say you are what you eat. This place is what that’s all about.”
And while Solomon understands the farm will likely have to change as its popularity grows, he’s excited to steer it in the right direction.
“We’ve created a space that really doesn’t exist anywhere else,” he said. “People always say they feel like they’re in a different country when they visit. And even though it will have to be streamlined, there is a special kind of freedom at the farm. You know the term ‘beer garden?’ In the classic sense, that’s exactly what we’re trying to create.”
Scott McDonald is a writer, on-air personality and consultant with 15 years of experience in the San Diego music scene. He has interviewed hundreds of artists, from the legendary to the underground, for print and television. Follow McDonald and his melodic musings on Twitter @eight24_ or Instagram @scotteight24. Send your music musts to firstname.lastname@example.org.