The Connelly Farms motto is: “Not the Most, Simply the Best." The Ramona business offers seasonal produce and specialty items to individual buyers through a year-round farmstand on Telford Lane and to a number of restaurants in San Diego county. The emphasis is quality over quantity and they use natural methods.
They also provide a unique “micro farm” option to individual consumers, restaurants and businesses seeking to grow their own produce. According to their website, Connelly Farms grows on every square foot they can "except for the animal yard." The farm covers two acres.
“We are an all-natural, integrated pest-management-run farm,” said Ryan Connelly, who co-owns the operation with Ann Connelly, his mother. He said they use no pesticides. “We only release beneficial insects, like ladybugs or lacewing larvae, to get the bad ones.”
He feeds his crop residues to his goats and chickens and uses the pen cleanings in the farm’s compost, closing a circle of sustainability.
Connelly, 29, grew up in a Ramona farming family. He has a degree in agricultural plant science from Cal Poly at Pomona with an emphasis in agronomy and fruit production.
The variety of farm products he offers reflect Connelly’s experience and his interests. Seasonal offerings of fruits and vegetables include a number of specialty and heirloom varieties.
“I like to grow things that people enjoy,” Ryan said, “but I also try to push the envelope, growing more special things. I choose the ones that are right for our climate, for flavor and aesthetics.”
He grows 12 kinds of lettuce: four speckled varieties, four red and four green.
“Green romaine is a cross of the traditional romaine with butterhead lettuce,” Connelly said. “You still get all the vigor and strength of romaine and more of the supple, soft taste of the butterhead.”
The Connelly Farms shallot is exclusive to their farm, he said. It can reach three pounds and a foot in length.
Seasonal offerings at the farmstand include free-range eggs and meat goats, as well as fruit and vegetables, Connelly said. The stand is open from 8 to noon every Saturday year-round.
Under the “micro farm” program, initiated in 2005, Connelly installs and/or maintains produce plots of varying sizes at customer locations. For a varying set of fees, he offers consultation, installation and maintenance of the mini-farm.
“It’s not just a garden. We keep it rotating 365 days a year,” said Connelly. He figures out the available crops, consulting with individual clients as to their needs. “I don’t just force my likes on someone. Some people like kale, others like their root vegetables. But I like to introduce things. I just make sure that everything that comes out of the garden is something they want.”
Toni Kraft, co-owner of Café Merlot in the Bernardo Winery, said she’s had a mini-farm on her restaurant's grounds for about eight months.
“I got the ground ready for him and Ryan pretty much took it from there,” Kraft said. Among the crops are herbs, carrots, artichokes, swiss chard and candy-striped beets, she said. All the produce is used by the restaurant.
Kraft said Connelly provided a lot of recommendations about produce and he set up the irrigation system.
“It’s really helped our production in and of itself and because we are a green restaurant,” said Kraft, who said she also does her own composting and shares whatever she can’t use with Connelly.
For Ryan Connelly, the work of farming is doubly pleasurable. “We love growing the products, and even more, we love people enjoying the products we’ve been able to provide."