Mission Valley Dairy Farm
Cows in Mission Valley San Diego
Tip of the Week: September 26, 2009
"What a cute bunch of cows!" she remarked.
"Not a bunch, herd", her friend replied.
"Heard of what?"
"Herd of cows."
"Of course I've heard of cows."
"No, a cow herd."
"What do I care what a cow heard. I have no secrets to keep from a cow!"
Old MacDonald had a farm. Father Junipero Serra was known for the
agriculture he started along the San Diego River. But many don't
know that San Diego once had over 100 dairy farms in San Diego
County. San Diego's Mission Valley was one of the most populated
areas for dairy farming.
Mission Valley or the area that hugs the San Diego River used to be called La Canada de San Diego or The Glen of San Diego. The name change came in the late 1860s referencing Father Serra's Mission San Diego.
At one time there were 25 original dairy farmers in what became Mission Valley. That's a lot of cows. In the late 1800s, immigrant families found their way to the San Diego area. Dairy farming was big in the 1930s - 1950s and the valley became the dairy farming capital of San Diego. They were really churning it out.
Native San Diegans (and you know who you are) love to tell the stories of seeing the cows in Mission Valley. They pine for the days when they'd see cows from their car windows roaming the green pastures of Mission Valley. It was the land of milk and honey in Mission Valley which had become known for dairies, vegetable farms, horse stables and such.
In 1950, progress came in the way of a ribbon of cement. Highway 80 was to be brought through Mission Valley. Highway 80 is now called I-8 and it runs east and west from the the desert to the ocean.
By 1960, it was as good as over for the dairies in Mission Valley. At that time, only six remained. The last man standing was Ferrari, the Ferrari Dairy, a family-owned dairy of Italian immigrants. To this day, the Ferrari family still owns a piece of land in Mission Valley but no longer for farming. The land might be the only land on the floor of Mission Valley that still has a
single-family detached home on it. Drive by the yellow house on the southern side of Mission Valley on Camino Del Rio South (3154 Camino Del Rio South) and you can see the sacred memory of its dairy past by the cow on the weather vane and the Ferrari name with a cow on the mailbox.
Eventually, developers and farm owners started seeing green. Lush green lands morphed into the green of cold hard cash. The former agricultural lands were sold off for development leading to the growth of retail madness, commericial complexes and the proliferation of hotels throughout Mission Valley. Hotel Circle in Mission Valley got its start with the first hotel in Mission Valley, the Town and Country, back in 1953. The Town & Country still exists today.
Gone are the cows from Mission Valley. Now, rather than cows, cars roam the freeway and streets that criss-cross this once fertile agricultural zone.
There are only five dairy farms left in San Diego: Steve Dowle's in Ramona, TD Dairy in Ramona, Verger Dairy in Escondido, Frank Konyn Dairy in the San Pasqual Valley and Ommering Dairy in Lakeside. They are
milking it for all they can, but times are very tough for the local dairy farmers. Times are tough for all dairy farmers. Land is too expensive to expand and costs are utterly too high relevant to what they can charge for their product. Farmers are now faced with making a decision to hang on or sell off their valuable land and move on.
Now, Mission Valley is lactose-intolerant. What remains of anything dairy in Mission Valley are the places one can buy milkshakes which isn't a bad thing. In-N-Out Burger is a popular spot for those with
such a hankering. Yes, we had to mention In-N-Out burger.
Mission Valley ain't what it used to be. We can wait forever for the cows to come home, but they won't be coming back to Mission Valley. It does the soul good, though, to imagine how it once was and how important it is to save farm land. After all, there's something nostalgic about looking out the car window and seeing the beauty of lush farmland. It leaves lasting memories. If you
don't believe us, ask a native San Diegan.
If you'd like to visit a working farm:
Van Ommering Dairy Farm
14950 El Monte Road,Lakeside
Map-Van Ommering Farm