Leichtag Commons, Past and Present

Celebrating our fourth year at the former Ecke Ranch in Encinitas, CA.

The Farm House seen in 1935 and current.

On December 20, 2012, the Leichtag Foundation closed escrow on the former Paul Ecke Poinsettia Ranch in Encinitas, CA.

The property was first acquired in 1923 by the Ecke family. In 2012, the Foundation purchased the former Ecke Ranch in order to bring together its four strategic areas into one physical platform. These photos showcase how the agricultural legacy of the Ecke Ranch continues in new ways at Leichtag Commons.

Leichtag Foundation was founded in 1991 as the “Leichtag Family Foundation” by Max “Lee” Leichtag and Andre “Toni” Leichtag and their daughter Joli after the sale of MD Pharmaceuticals. In 2007, the Foundation became independent after the death of Lee Leichtag. Since becoming independent in 2007, the Foundation has granted over $98 million to 453 organizations. About 22% has stayed in Encinitas.

Scroll to the bottom to see the original photos for reference.

Photos from the Ecke Ranch come from the collection of The San Dieguito Heritage Museum, and Ecke Family Papers, Special Collections Library, California State University, San Marcos.

Leichtag Commons is a 67.5 acre agricultural property in Encinitas, California, a city once known as the “flower capital of the world.” The Ecke Ranch grew poinsettias outside until the 1960s, when the business moved towards greenhouse production.

For much of the 20th century, this area was made up of acres and acres of flower fields growing the iconic poinsettia “Christmas flower,” which was popularized when Paul Ecke Sr. filled the set of “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” with the flowers just as televisions were turning from black & white to color.

The North County Hub (Barn 2)

Barn 2 once featured the packing of dried poinsettia cuttings that would be shipped off around the world.

Today, Barn 2 is the home of the North County Hub, a collaborative coworking space home to 30 nonprofits and social entrepreneurs working in fields of agriculture, Jewish community building, environmentalism, self-sufficiency, arts & culture, and social activism.

Transformations Since 2012

Since purchasing the property, Leichtag Foundation and Coastal Roots Farm have been working hard at bringing it back to life through methods that preserve and conserve precious resources like water, energy, and soils. Using biodynamic, permaculture, and high tech methods, we hope to showcase the possibilities and opportunities of agriculture in the 21st century .

From the beginning of farming in 2014 to today.

Coastal Roots Farm

Coastal Roots Farm is an independent nonprofit 501c(3) community farm and education center inspired by Jewish wisdom and centuries-old agricultural traditions. The farm practices sustainable farming and share its harvest with communities that lack access to healthy food. Coastal Roots Farm’s goal is to become a model for community farming and creative Jewish expression in Encinitas and around the world.

Beginning in 2014, the farm began using biodynamic and natural methods to rebuild the soils on the property for growing healthy food. Above you can see Farmer Daniel prepping the farm’s first crop in 2014 and what the farm looks like today.

On the left, today, on the right, 2014.

The High Point

The highest natural point on the property has been preserved and rewildized using native plants that attract natural pollinators. Plants grown on the property depend on healthy bees that are attracted to this edible native landscape.

On the left, today. On the right, Food Forest Festival in Jan. 2016.

The Food Forest

Managed by Coastal Roots Farm, the Food Forest has been planted with 1,500 trees of 50 fruit bearing species by 200 volunteers at the Tu B’Shevat “Food Forest Festival.” The food forest features swales that catch rainwater to preserve every last drop.

Planting food along the corners of one’s property is a Jewish agricultural tradition, known as peah or ‘edges.’ The purpose of this tradition is to allow forage-able spaces for the stranger and poor to take with dignity. These concepts drive the social mission of Coastal Roots Farm.

From the time it was first graded to fruit bearing trees growing along this winding path.

Volunteers continue to support the food forest each Wednesday with volunteer hours. See coastalrootsfarm.org for details.

Original Photos

Photos from the Ecke Ranch come from the collection of The San Dieguito Heritage Museum, and Ecke Family Papers, Special Collections Library, California State University, San Marcos.

Aerials of Ecke Ranch, circa 1930s.
Barn 2 photos.
Ecke Ranch house, 1935.
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