Surprise Farm Retreat Center is a charming place in the backcountry near Ramona, CA. A short drive from the metropolitan areas of San Diego and Los Angeles, it offers the opportunity to explore small scale farming and outdoor setting close to the city. Surrounded by boutique wineries, the land offers unique heritage (Native American, Stagecoach Stop. and Gem Mining), and open space preserve. The space allows for the discovery of wild places, close enough to home. The bioregion and facilities allow us to connect and find community. Surprise Farm Retreat Center offers a place in nature to renew and reconnect. With experiential education, workshops, camping, and hands-on farming, we seek to co-create an environment in support of a caring and sustainable world. Engaged with our place in history, relating to the non-human, we can re-wild our creativity.
The Story of Place : The discovery of unique gemstones at Surprise Mine in 1903 is credited to “Mrs. Booth, who noticed a few garnets sticking in the pegmatite.” Mrs. Booth’s residence, 500’ south of the mine, had an earlier history. In the 1890’s it was the Luckett stagecoach stop, linking San Diego to Julian gold mines and passage to the railroad in Anza-Borrego. Old photos show the stage-stop beside Old Wagon Road, which we still use. In the 1890’s, were the Ipai still using this site’s nearby grinding holes in boulders to harvest and process acorn? Their presence of family life remains. Same oak trees overhead, with history as surround. For 12,000 years (before the pyramids) the Ipai natives migrated from desert to ocean, stopping beside creeks to set up a seasonal kitchen. Now, we are the temporary tenants of some untouched riparian groves and high desert chaparral. Beauty surrounds us, in a place to learn from each other, and from the non-human. The present use of Surprise Farm as nature retreat and organic farm offers simple lessons. Growing food requires attention to soil (soul) and season. Attention to “all our relations” is healing practice. In these foothills of the Laguna mountain range, bioregion climate niches are amazing in their adaptations, and ask us to pay attention. We’re at the edge of snowfall and coastal fog, subject to devil winds off the desert. The plants in natural habitat have their strategy. Some wildflowers rush into bloom, some wait for more rain. Sage has it figured out, offering incense all year around. Surprise farming . . . Avocado and citrus at this elevation is edgy, as we explore what wants to grow, what’s sustainable. The flowering and set of fruit on apple and plum explore our nature. Plants and community need roots.
Surprise Farm retreats seek to restore balance, harmony, and relationship. The surround of nature teaches. If we experience the creative and the kind in community, then more likely we can embody authentic selves out into the world, and thus make a difference.