S.D. Coffee: Wake Up, and Smell the Profits

Farmer and consultant Scott Murray, who works with singer/songwriter Jason Mraz at his Oceanside farm, Mraz Family Farms, stands next to a coffee tree. Photo by Scott Murray

A couple of years ago, Jay Ruskey, a seasoned California farmer, tapped San Diego to grow high-end coffee that he and his team believe will sell for around $15 a cup.

Today, there are approximately 30,000 coffee trees planted in Oceanside, Fallbrook and Bonsall, to list a few locations, with full harvest becoming available in early 2019.

Through his Frinj Coffee Inc., located in Goleta on the Central California Coast, Ruskey offered a full-service operation for growing coffee that begins with selling pest-free, locally-grown specialty coffee plants to interested growers for $20 each. Experts believe this experimental crop can be the next revenue-driving agricultural sector for San Diego. This discovery is timely for the local agriculture scene, as the avocado market, which produced $122 million in 2017, according to the county’s annual crop report, continues to slow down.

Fifteen varietals of Arabica, considered the better-tasting, higher-quality coffee compared with robusta, are growing in regions up and down San Diego County.

Part of what is opening the coffee market up to avocado-growing regions like San Diego is the shift in specialty market on the consumer side, according to Lindsey Mesta, chief marketing officer and co-founder of Frinj. From a grower’s perspective, the climate change in tropic regions that normally grow coffee is also allowing San Diego to step in the coffee scene. Lastly, most San Diego avocado trees are reaching the end of their life span of 30 to 50 years, which means they are not producing like before or not producing at all.

-Mariel Concepcion

S.D. Coffee: Wake Up, and Smell the Profits

San Diego Business Journal