Los Angeles Magazine profiles Jay Ruskey ’90, who grows coffee in Santa Barbara.
By Ann Herold
Los Angeles Magazine
In this day of the $6 cup of coffee, when bragging rights mean knowing not only the varietal but the beans’ latitude, anything exotic gets the antennae waving. Which may explain why Jay Ruskey of Good Land Organics (good landorganics.com) is inundated with requests to visit his north Santa Barbara County farm, where he is the only person cultivating coffee in California. He’s been turning down the requests—until now. This month the curious can sign up online for an agritour and the chance to see how Ruskey coaxes a plant inextricably tied to Latin America and Africa to flourish on U.S. soil.
The weekend morning outing ($40 per person) starts at the barn high atop Goleta’s Tecolote Canyon, a place so picturesque, it’s worth the drive. The agritourists first partake of a cup of coffee from one of the dozen varietals Ruskey grows—likely a typica with a deep, almost chocolaty flavor. Then they set off down a dirt path past Ruskey’s other big crops—cherimoyas and Australian finger limes—to the coffee bushes thriving on mulch left over from an old avocado orchard. “People have no idea what it takes to bring a cup of coffee to the table,” says Ruskey, referring to the harvesting, processing, and roasting that are all done here on-site. “It’s amazing it’s as inexpensive as it is.”
Ruskey grew up in Los Feliz, where he attended Cheremoya Elementary School (yes, he gets the irony), and Loyola High, where geology classes fueled his interest in an occupation outdoors.