Meet the Growers: Jim & Megan Shanley of Shanley Farms

Have you experienced a finger lime yet? We love these distinctive micro citrus and got to wondering – how are they grown and more interestingly, how does a farmer decide to grow such a unique crop?

We reached out to the father-daughter duo behind Shanley Farms, Jim and Megan Shanley, to find out a little more about their farming philosophy and how they got into the finger lime business.

Keep reading for the interview!

What is the story behind Shanley Farms?

Jim Shanley initially began farming as part of his retirement plan. In 1998, he purchased Morro Canyon Ranch in Morro Bay, California. The first planting of avocados went in the next year. Soon after the avocados began producing in Morro Bay, Jim caught the farming bug. He purchased Venice Hill Ranch in Visalia, California in 2003. When Venice Hill Ranch was acquired it was already in production growing avocados, oranges, lemons and kiwis. For several years, various packing houses would manage all aspects of sales and marketing for Shanley Farms products.

In 2010, Jim decided he wasn’t ready for retirement. He hired one of his daughters, Megan, to return home and develop a sales and marketing branch of the family farm. Today they work together to grow and bring to market Citriburst Finger Limes, Morro Bay Avocados and Sierra Sweet Kiwis.

What is your philosophy on farming?

Our philosophy is simple: we grow food for people who care about what they eat. We only harvest our produce when it is in the peak of its season so that our customers get it at its absolute best. In addition to the finger limes, we also bring to market Morro Bay Avocados. We let these hang on the trees until September and October. At that time, our avocados have reached their premium maturity and peak oil content. They are the richest, creamiest and smoothest Haas avocados available all year. In January we bring to market Sierra Sweet Kiwis. These are kiwis that have hung on their vines as long as possible, all the while maturing and sweetening up to bring our customers the sweetest kiwi they have ever had.

How did you decide to start growing something as unique as finger limes?

Jim Shanley was in the process of replacing some orange trees that had seen better days. He came across a finger lime tree that researchers at UC Riverside had on display. Jim is the chef in his family, and he immediately thought of several ways he could use finger limes in his kitchen. He was sure that if he thought these were cool, other people would too. He took a large risk with his initial planting as at that time very few people in the US knew what a finger lime was. In fact, Jim had the very first commercial planting of finger limes in the US in 2004.

Is there anything challenging or tricky about this crop?

These trees are extremely prickly – there is a thorn for every leaf! The pickers must wear leather sleeves to protect themselves while harvesting the finger limes. Additionally, this is a brand new citrus that we are learning to grow. Apart from the knowledge we can gain from finger lime growers in Australia, everything is a learn-by-doing experience.

What is your favorite way to enjoy finger limes?

Our favorite way to enjoy these at the moment is in a beurre blanc sauce over scallops (get Jim’s recipe here). We also love to squeeze the citrus pearls onto barbequed oysters, over a fresh fillet of grilled salmon, sprinkled over a salad with a sweet dressing, and of course, we are always experimenting with them in our cocktails!