Armchair environmentalists, farmer’s markets, and organic California-grown coffee: is this the Fourth Wave?
When customers stop by Jay Ruskey’s stand at the Santa Barbara farmers market these days, they may or may not be impressed by the likes of the dragon fruit or finger limes he grows, but virtually everyone stops and gawks at the jars of fresh-roasted coffee, flanked by a potted tree.
Ruskey’s ranch is 15 miles up the coast in Goleta. It’s a lush, hilly paradise of exotic fruits, with the Pacific Ocean and the Channel Islands glimmering in the distance. Ruskey is no less thrilled that his coffee trees, from waist- to shoulder-high, are flourishing and that he has harvested his first real coffee crop after many years of trailblazing preparations.
Mark Gaskell, a University of California farm advisor who has worked in Central America, started the project in 2002 with a vision of developing a local specialty coffee industry similar to the one in Kona, Hawaii. He imported seed and sought to persuade Ruskey, a young and innovative organic farmer, to try growing coffee.