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Brite Creek Farm: a family business offering healthy, fresh Tehachapi foods

Land of Four Seasons

Most Tehachapi residents noticed that an empty, sagebrush-choked field at the intersection of Highway 202, Highline and Banducci Roads turned into a farm in 2018. The dry field became a green, irrigated pasture, and a vintage Airstream trailer was pulled in to serve as a farm stand selling fresh produce. Welcome to Brite Creek Farm!

This thriving Tehachapi agrotourism destination is the result of hard work and farming expertise by the Shipman family: Jay and his wife Hannah, and their children J.W., who is 17, Bella, 13, and Callahan, 11.

Brite Creek Farm is open year-round, and offers a variety of tasty farm produce, all grown locally. The Shipmans also raise and sell pasture-grown eggs, chicken and beef. Their emphasis is on healthy food and happy animals.

Jay has designed the farm to have a holistic approach to feeding and raising livestock. The cattle are shifted to a different part of the pasture almost daily, so that they are eating fresh green growth and the vegetation gets a chance to recover after it has been grazed and walked on. The chickens follow in the wake of the cattle, pecking at the plants and scratching for bugs and assorted invertebrates.

The Shipmans grow a variety of vegetables and have also put in a number of fruit trees for future harvests. They sold a lot of pumpkins last month as lucky kids got the opportunity to select Tehachapi pumpkins from an actual pumpkin patch.

As Christmas approaches, Brite Creek Farm will be bringing in some fresh cut Christmas trees so that families can have a more rural, country place to pick out their tree.

Inside the Airstream trailer, Hannah stocks a number of gift items in addition to their farm products. There is artisanal pasta from a small shop in Pasadena, candles, sauces, oils, linens and other items. She also stocks cheeses produced by other small farms.

Jay and Hannah first became really focused on healthy food when Hannah was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in her feet when she was only 29. The pain was excruciating, and she could hardly walk.

After learning about what foods can cause the inflammation that aggravates rheumatoid arthritis, they looked for better alternatives. Jay was raised on an alfalfa and horse ranch in the Imperial Valley, and was a Cal Poly San Luis Obispo grad who worked in seed sales in the agribusiness world, so he already knew farming.

Jay and a friend from college who also had a ranching background started J & J Beef, raising grass-fed cattle. They found that beef from the grass-fed animals was much less inflammatory than store-bought packages from grain-fed feedlot animals. Not only did Hannah's health improve, so did Jay's – he formerly had to be hospitalized almost yearly for severe allergy attacks that left him unable to breathe. With dietary changes, they both have experienced great health without medications.

These are difficult times for small farmers, and because of the pandemic, there is hardship across the economy. But Jay and Hannah and their kids are making a stand for agriculture in the Tehachapi area, and bringing fresh produce and the farm stand experience to locals and visitors.

They've already prepared a building site and will eventually be putting up a permanent barn with a commercial kitchen, so that they can do value-adding, like making more jams, jellies, pickles, etc. This will be another exciting addition for Tehachapi agrotourism.

Brite Creek Farm is located at 21951 Highline Road, where Highline and Banducci connect. The farm stand is open Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visit them and support this Tehachapi farm if you can. Happy Thanksgiving!

Jon Hammond is a fourth generation Kern County resident who has photographed and written about the Tehachapi Mountains for 38 years. He lives on a farm his family started in 1921, and is a speaker of Nuwä, the Tehachapi Indian language. He can be reached at [email protected].