Mesa Farms of Yesteryear - Radishes & Avocados
This time of year, the local farmers' markets and farm stands in Santa Barbara are overflowing with fruits and. Back in the 1800s, far more people grew their own vegetables, especially here on the Mesa which was dotted with farms — both large and small. In the 1870s and 1880s, farming and farmers were often written about in the local newspapers.
Some of the newspaper reports concerned oddities – enormous vegetables or new or unfamiliar items. In 1882, a Santa Barbara paper reported that Mesa farmer Leonard Babcock grew a radish 28 inches long and 34-1/2 inches in circumference. It was the talk of the town and was exhibited at the Arlington Hotel, Santa Barbara's premier hotel back then.
Some of the first avocados in Santa Barbara may have been planted on the Mesa. In 1873, Dr. James L. Ord, a Mesa landowner, made the news when he came back from a trip to Mexico with several trees that needed explaining to locals. The newspaper called the trees aguacate or "vegetable butter" trees. (Aguacate is the Spanish word for avocado.) The paper said that they were a "fine fruit" and would be planted at once.
I'll write about more food grown on the Mesa in future posts.