Meet the Growers: Carol and Bill Steed of Fairfield Farms

This year we’re sourcing organic blueberries from Fairfield Farms. After visiting the farm in Pauma Valley, our produce buyer told us “the farm is beautiful, the berries are incredible, and the owners Bill and Carol Steed have passion you can feel.”

Curious to learn more about the growers behind these berries, we set up an interview with Carol. She shared their story (and a few of her delicious blueberry recipes, too).

How long have you been farming, and how did you get into it?
We first started with farming in 1998, with 60 acres of avocados. Bill’s grandfather had been a citrus farmer in Florida and when we were in our 20s, Bill took me to visit and I was smitten. For years afterwards, even though we both had other careers, we would drive into Pauma Valley on our way to a family camp and dream about farming. Then in the late 90s we decided to pursue our interest seriously. We first purchased the avocado orchard; it was really my endeavor, at that point. I would visit weekly, loving every moment, and Bill continued to work in Finance in Los Angeles. Then in 2003, I got cancer, we decided to sell the orchard to ease my responsibilities, but the day we signed the papers, we realized that this was our passion. We pledged to change our lifestyle and almost a year later we purchased Fairfield Farms.

Keep reading to find out why the Steeds decided to grow organic blueberries, and what makes their berries unique!

Why did you go with blueberries?
Bill had heard that blueberries were a new crop for California and back in 2003, we were one of the first to plant them. The crop was appealing because we love to eat blueberries and there weren’t hardly any grown in California. We also grow organic avocados and citrus.

Have organics always been important to you?
You know, with my bout of cancer, which I am 5 years clear by the way, I have been a little obsessed about the chemicals in our foods. We talked about the way people frequently open a clamshell and eat the berries without washing them (even though they should) and it just seemed like the right thing to do.

What’s your average day like?
Right now we are in harvest season, so it’s a little hectic. The day starts around 7am. In the morning 150-200 pickers arrive and it almost seems like a party. Many of them have worked for us for many years. After they are in the fields, we are in the office following up on order flow and normal business issues. Mid morning usually includes a visit to our packing house located on the farm, talking with the packing house manager and problem solving. Then Bill will be in the field to check on the fruit and see how it is ripening. Later we may regroup and meet with different people to discuss cultural issues, or farm operations. In the afternoon, I usually try to get out on an ATV and check the avocados, they are in the final stages of pollination and it is fun to stop and hear and watch the bees buzzing around.

What makes your berries unique?
We have a unique micro climate which really does make our blueberries different. We are cooler during the day and evening than Sacramento and Bakersfield areas where many other blueberries are also grown. This makes them ripen slowly, have a longer shelf life and we believe a more complex taste…just like a wine grape.