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Why do you need the community’s support to buy Couple Berry Farms, why can’t you get a loan like everyone else wanting to go into business?

First, let’s take a look at the numbers. A $1.6m mortgage at 4% APR for 30 years has a monthly payment of $7,600. Then add on the property taxes based on the new purchase price, insurance costs and utilities; we are looking at monthly holding costs of $10,700.

Now, let’s compare that to what we stand to gain from the farm. The farm stand on a GOOD week makes $3000, or $12,000 a month gross on a GOOD month, subtracting holding costs, we have a profit of $1,300 a month, which may sound like a good thing. However, we haven’t factored in: staffing, feed for the animals, seeds, fertilizer, equipment, repairs... and the list goes on. We could potentially break even if we worked really, really hard, but we all know it’s not a reality.

Yes, we could put more money down on the property to lower the mortgage; but then we would have no capital to tackle any of the deferred maintenance, improvements or keep the farm going in the transition.

Then why are you doing this, it sounds crazy?

We are definitely not entering into this business in order to make money, that’s for sure. We are doing this, because we believe in the local community farm, and we cannot stand to see another farm disappear. We see countless farms being sold, and rightly so, farmers get older and their kids have moved and don’t want or can’t manage the farm. The farmer has worked hard his entire life and selling, often to a developer, gives him a chance to retire. But, the stats tell us we are losing a million acres of farmland a year and the projections we are hearing is that by 2050 we will need to be producing 70% more food than we are now to feed the population. If we don’t step in and take a stance, then who will?

Couple Berry Farms is exactly what we have been looking for, a family farm in the middle of a city; its 10- 20 minutes from Encinitas, Carlsbad, Oceanside, San Marcos and Escondido. It has a connection with its community that we can build on. We want to get people connected to their local farmer, let the kids come interact with the farm animals, taste a peach right from the tree and slow down a bit for some family time on a farm. We want to hold potlucks and bring the community together. The Johnson’s have a long tradition of helping the community, being the spot everyone came to gather, that’s a special thing that shouldn’t be lost.

Yes, we can go out further east and get property for cheaper, but realistically will families show up in the midst of their busy schedules? No, we have been that family with four kids in competitive sports. If something was close we could make it, but most likely if we had a 45-minute drive to something non- sports related, there was just no time. Moving out where land is affordable for farming, defeats the entire purpose of what we want to do, which is bring our community together.

How should the community support you?

We are asking the community to come together in true CSA fashion and support this venture by bridging the gap. Couple Berry Farms has 75K Facebook followers, Vista has over 100K residents, San Diego County has a population of 3.2m and growing. If 50,000 people can donate $20, then we can secure this farm for the community. If this farm has meant something to you, and you would like to see families enjoy it for generations to come, then please join in and donate $20 to save this farm.

Are you changing anything about Couple Berry Farms?

We do not want the feel of Couple Berry Farms to change, that’s why we are asking for the community’s support. However, without your support, the farm would need to be commercialized, we would need to charge for kids to go see the farm animals, increase the price of produce... etc. You saw the numbers and that’s NOT what we want. Without the burden of a large mortgage, we can keep Couple Berry the quaint family farm open to everyone. We can tackle the deferred maintenance, restore the 1920s original farm house and open up the grounds around it to host community potlucks, farm to table dinners, gardening classes and so much more. We want to build on what the Johnson family has established and honor the legacy that we are entering into.

The Johnson’s have a rich history in Vista, and we want to honor that and make sure that it is not forgotten. With that in mind, we will be putting up displays with different facts and pictures about the Johnson’s and the surrounding Vista community. These displays will be located in what will be known as, “Couple Berry Corner”, and will be surrounded by u-pick berries. If you have a favorite Butch Johnson story, send it over and it may just find its way onto one of our displays.

We want the community to feel that they are as much a part of this as we are. That’s why, as a fundraising avenue, we are also going to implement engraved pavers into a walkway around the farmhouse. When you bring your kids to the farm, you have something tangible to show them that you helped to save this farm, and you can tell the story of how the community came together to save Couple Berry!

We know a lot of people are sitting on the sidelines saying, ok I’ll give if they get close, but we need people to join the bandwagon now! We need to let Butch know that the community wants Couple Berry to stay! We are both native San Diegans, we know our community can come together and save this farm that has meant so much to so many! Join us in Saving Couple Berry by making a $20 contribution today! Please don’t wait as it may be too late, we have two weeks to remove financial contingencies or risk the deposit made. What you get back from the farm will far exceed $20. Your donation will not just benefit you and your family, but will help us to impact the lives of so many in our community.

Are you a Non-Profit?

We entered escrow as Rich and April Viles as we know we will need to get financing and utilize our funds to make this a reality for the community. As a newly formed 501c3, it would not have the financial history or the assets to be able to secure financing. We do have a 501c3 that has been formed, Tierra De Mis Sueños, which translated means Land of my Dreams. We have many charitable intentions and outreaches planned for Couple Berry Farms, and are working with many people to make these a reality. If you are interested in finding out more information, we would be happy to discuss them with you. You can contact us by email at april@sandnstraw.com

Thank you for helping us save Couple Berry Farms by contributing today!