Millennial Mom: Going to Sand n’ Straw community farm

Jalapeno peppers in baskets for sale at a farm stand
Sand n’ Straw Community Farm has a stand that sells fresh produce, like these jalapeno peppers.
(Ebone Monet)

Columnist Ebone Monet takes her cooped-up kids for a day of fresh air at Sand n’ Straw Community Farm


Meet PACIFIC’s new parenting columnist, Ebone Monet: I am a San Diego native and longtime journalist. I moved back to the city after living away for 15 years. I’ve returned as a wife and mother of two awesome children, a 6-year-old son, and a 4-year-old daughter.

Despite our efforts to maintain a pre-pandemic routine, our community is starting to feel like Walnut Grove. Our family has become daily regulars at the nearby lake and trails. The result has been months of monotony. So when a friend told me about a farm in North County I was excited.

Sand n’ Straw Community Farm sits just off Mar Vista Drive in a residential neighborhood in Vista. Its dirt parking lot adds to the country feel. My kids and I took the trip on a hot Saturday afternoon. It’s one of two days that Sand n’ Straw hosts a farm stand. Shoppers can find just-picked tomatoes, peas and a variety of squashes sorted in baskets on wooden spool tables shaded by colorful umbrellas. The farm uses regenerative agriculture techniques that according to owners, Rich and April Viles, means basically everything is done by hand.

To make it more fun, I let my kids fill baskets with fruits and vegetables. My four-year-old made thoughtful selections. While her six-year-old brother peppered me with questions. He wanted to know why there were so many types of tomatoes and which plants were related. In his hurried way, he overfilled his basket with at least two of everything.

Vegetables for sale at Sand n' Straw's Vista farm stand.
(Ebone Monet)

But don’t worry if you have picky eaters, the farm stand has more to offer than fruits and veggies.

The Viles say the coffee bar is actually one of the biggest draws to the Wednesday and Saturday farm stand. Lattes are their best sellers. The family also cans pickles and bakes vegan cupcakes made from their produce. They have beet chocolate cupcakes, pumpkin cupcakes for the fall, and other gluten-free options. I bought the carrot and zucchini cupcakes with the frosting made from avocado butter. My family unanimously agreed they were delicious.

Sitting down to enjoy these sweets gave us a chance to take in the surroundings. From the old fashion outdoor pump sink to the handwritten wooden signs, we were transported to a quieter time. This slowed down farm life contrasted enough with suburbia to relieve boredom.

But what’s a farm without animals?

The six-acre space is also home to chickens, rabbits, sheep and goats. Petting and feeding these animals was by far my kids’ favorite part of the visit. You have to sign up in person or online before you can view the animals. While you wait there’s a play area for smaller children and shaded seating where I secretly indulged in my second cupcake.

Feeding farm animals is one activity you can do at Sand n' Straw.
(Ebone Monet)

Inside the petting area, the handler Bobbye Anderson gave the children greens and carrots to feed the animals. True to their personalities my daughter timidly reached out to her hand to feed a goat a carrot only to quickly withdraw it once the animal got close enough to take a nibble. This back and forth went on for what felt like 15 minutes. During this same time, my son fed all of the animals twice. When he ran out of food, Farmer Bobbye (as we called her) was patient enough to give him more. The farm provides at no additional cost.

Our farm visit lasted for about two hours, which is my limit for most kid-centric activities. My children didn’t want to leave, which is the marking of a successful outing. We left with two paper bags filled with produce. April Viles says their goal with Sand n’ Straw is to connect people with their food and have them experience what it should taste like, “too often produce in the store has to be harvested way too early to make it to the store shelves that it doesn’t have any taste or worst yet it doesn’t have the nutrients it’s supposed to.”

Sand n’ Straw plans to expand. It has recently added a children’s storytime on Tuesday and Friday mornings and this fall lookout for new cooking and soap making classes. I am also told this is the best time to find apples, pears, persimmons, blackberries, pomegranates and zapotes. Overall the trip to the family-owned farm gave my family the adventure we needed.

If you’re looking for other family-friendly farm experiences, here are a few options:

Coastal Roots Farm, Encinitas
Inspired by Jewish wisdom and centuries-old agricultural traditions, we practice sustainable farming and share our harvest with communities.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays; noon to 3 p.m. Thursdays

A Simpler Time Alpaca Farm And Mill, El Cajon
Tours include time interacting with the alpacas, touring the fiber mill to see how alpaca yarn is made, and shopping in our alpaca boutique. (source: website)
Hours: During COVID-19 entrance is by appointment only

Alta Vista Botanical Gardens, Vista
A garden for the community and for all of San Diego County. Alta Vista Botanical Gardens harmoniously incorporates education, nature and art.
Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends