Ojai and the Santa Ynez Valley Make Me Want to Buy a Farm

I’ve never seen land like the real estate in the Ynez Valley, including the drive to Ojai, California.  This is one of, if not the, most beautiful place in the United States.  Once you make it out of the cities, it’s nothing but huge, rolling fields with tractors going through them, blueberries, strawberries, grapes, citrus, cattle, and horses; it’s perfection.  I’m not going to go all Green Acres on you, but this speaks to my childhood in Missouri in a way no other place has.  The fact that this exists right next door to the area outside of Buellton on the way to Solvang … this part of California is remarkable.  Were I a politician here, I’d push very hard to break it into its own individual state because the needs of the population and industry are so vastly different than what is happening further South.

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I’m going to start studying the real estate around the area because, even if I don’t do anything now, at this point in my life, there very well might come a day I build a working farm as a sort of tertiary retreat.  The land prices aren’t bad given the quality of views – e.g., look at this 20 acre plot.  It’s only $695,000 and you’d get to walk out to that every morning.  Unfortunately, I don’t know much about the crop yields here since my knowledge is limited to Iowa farm land, so I can’t tell you if they offer a good return on capital under conservative assumptions.  You can’t purchase a farm on how pretty it looks; it’s got to make money.  That will be on my task list when I get back home.  In a few months, I’ll probably be able to tell you are failure rates of various theoretical crop allocations on a working estate.  It’s in my nature.  I need to know whether strawberries or blueberries are going to pay higher dividends.

There are a lot more photographs but they’re generally more of the same so I don’t want to bore you with all of them.  Suffice it to say, this is my kind of place (and Aaron prefers it over more coastal cities like Pacific Palisades).  At least for part of the year.  I think I’d rather live somewhere closer to a major population and escape from time to time.  It’s so weird that such a thing is possible out here.  California has 158,648 square miles of land and it’s so different that tiny distances can put you in entire different cultures and climates.  Ojai, for example, is only 194 miles away from La Jolla, yet you’d think we were in a different country.

Who knew wine country would capture my heart?  Turns out, anywhere vineyards can grow abundantly, I’m probably going to like.  If I want more isolation, this is my place.  If I want to live closer to civilization, it’s Temecula wine country.  I never would have guessed.

Leaving Solvang for Ojai

We’re leaving Solvang and heading to Ojai to see huge farms and ranches … I love the color of the paint on the roadside.  It’s not really red, it’s more of a berry with hints of pink.  I’ve never seen anything quite like it.  The view isn’t bad, either.

Driving In Santa Barbara Area

We’re listening to the Final Fantasy XIII-2 soundtrack at certain parts of this drive and it is haunting with the landscape.  It makes me feel like we’re in the middle of a video game.

Making Our Way Down a Mountain

We’re heading back through the Santa Monica area to get on a road directly to Ojai …

Cutting Back Through Santa Barbara for Ojai

Cutting back through the city …

More Santa Barbara To Get to Ojai

We’re driving, we’re driving …

Santa Barbara Towards Ojai Visitor Center

and … stop. No, just kidding, we’re still driving.

Driving Driving Driving

We’re almost too our Ojai turnoff …

Working the Fields Santa Barbara

And now we’re on our way. The first thing that greeted us on the way to Ojai was a field of workers harvesting fruit … I’m surprised this is still done by hand and there hasn’t been an appropriate John Deere invention.

Only 18 Miles to Ojai

Only 18 miles to Ojai …

Los Padres National Forest

Los Padres National Forest …

Beautiful Mountains on Way to Ojai

At one point, Aaron looked over and said, “I think this is the most beautiful drive I’ve ever been on in my entire life.”  It definitely was.  The Ynez Valley and the surrounding areas we’ve been through lately are beyond anything I knew existed in the United States.

Looks Like Missouri on Way to Ojai

This looks like home!  You know, minus the mountains and nice weather.  Otherwise, it could be Missouri!

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Breathtaking California Landscape on Way to Ojai

This is better than most parts of Colorado …

In Ojai Itself

The city of Ojai itself itself could use quite a bit of work … it’s definitely a working, middle class town; a far cry from the more affluent Temecula or the even more affluent Rancho Santa Fe, for example, but for someone who wanted to live in the outdoors and what most of the country considers a normal, boring life, this place is great.  The views are the best I’ve seen in all of California.

Welcome to Ojai

There are some huge, multi-million dollar estates on the outskirt of town with all sorts of crops growing.  This is the type of place my grandmother, Ruby, would love.  She could live on a farm here and never want to leave.

Country Club Ojai

I wanted to see get another shot of how it looked closer to the mountain from inside the town.

Drilling for Oil on Drive from Ojai California

Again, more oil derricks. These things are everywhere. I like it. Actually, I’d prefer if we were entirely nuclear and solar, but for now, the industry of this makes me happy.

Adjacent Hotel in Oxnard Near Strawberry Fields

We’ve driven back to Oxnard to make our next loop starting in the morning. We’re staying at the HIlton Garden Inn across from the strawberry fields. Here was the view from the room …

Strawberry Fields in Oxnard California from Hilton Garden Inn Window

This makes me want to grow strawberries. I wonder what the market value of the crops are. I have so much reading to do when I get home … corn, soybeans, etc., I have a general idea but I’m clueless on this.

View of Oxnard to the Right

You can see the commercial and industrial buildings of Oxnard over to our right …

God willing, we enjoy average or better life expectancies, you are now forewarned that in 30 years, you might just walk into your grocery store and see Kennon Farms jam, jelly, and preserves from Ojai, California.  If you do, you’ll know I started a side project that took root in my imagination decades prior.

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  • I read maybe a year ago that there are fruit-picking machines in the works. The problem has been that fruit is very soft and machines are generally not very gentle. Not sure what the status of the fruit-picking machines is, but I’d expect this to become an issue in California and elsewhere when they start rolling out. It will certainly change the dynamic of migrants in the West.

    • frederick

      For years there have been grape picking machines that go down the rows of vines and strip everything off. The problem is they bruise and damage the fruit, resulting in poor quality wines. I’m not sure how you can design a machine that can pinpoint fruit and grab it without any damage.

      • Science, my friend. The answer is always science.

  • Niket Dhruv

    Hey Joshua,

    Amazing place and pictures.. It perfectly matches my retirement dream destination,where i would love to manage a farm as a hobby and practice Investment away from all the Chaos just the way i have learnt from you 🙂

  • Niket Dhruv

    PS : Cant just wait to read and understand your analysis / study on the farming sector..

  • jacobh

    Long-time reader, first time commentator here …. Inspired by your posts here, I’m setting-up an online store for a natural cosmetics business some family members of mine run. I’m a software engineer, so the technical side isn’t a problem for me; but, I am new to Magento. Are there tutorials for it that you would recommend?

    P.S. I’m loving all the California scenery photos. And, thanks for sharing all of the business analysis and investment wisdom that you put online. Please keep up the good work.

    • Welcome to the site! Re: Magento, we bought every book we could find on Amazon and just threw ourselves into it. We got pretty far but ultimately ended up deciding to go with a more expensive SaaS due to the technical support and wanting to see Magento evolve a little further given the rather complex needs we had on customization options and it being acquired.

  • poor.ass.millionaire

    Yes, the scenery is nice in the costal valley, but if you want truly jaw dropping views (like you’re in a different, exotic country) then you’ll need to go north a couple of hours and drive through Big Sur. An awesome drive is going from highway 101 down to the coastal highway 1 through Big Sur. That is epic. Living in norther California one gets spoiled, until one reads stories like these. Matter of fact there is a part of highway 1 near San Fran, devils slide, that was recently closed off and circumvented via tunnel (the road would wash out and into the ocean every few years because the cliffs are so steep.) Now that area is open to hikers. Every time drove it I wished I could stop and mosey through. So tomorrow I’m going to hike there for the first time, as we are having perfect weather.

  • kmica

    Hi Joshua, thanks so much for posting pictures of your travellings. American architecture, cities and countryside certainly have a different, distinctive feel from what we have in Europe. Have you ever travelled in rural England (particularly the Cotswolds) and Italy, especially in Tuscany? I think you would really like the countryside and architecture there!

    • I’m so sorry I didn’t see this for nine months!

      … Looking up pictures of Cotswald, you’re right. I need to visit this place!!! You just changed my travel itinerary whenever we get across the pond. There are quite a few other things I want to see in Europe, too, after I came across this list last night.

      I’m hoping to get over to England in the next year or two because there are so many things I haven’t had a chance to see, yet. Heaven knows I should, anyway, just because I’ve sent off so much of my money to you all, haha! (Not that it’s particularly relevant but, as American stocks have grown more richly valued these past few years, I find myself almost exclusively buying in the U.K. As of this morning, roughly 23.88% of my family’s portfolio is invested within Her Majesty’s borders. Add in non-U.K. listed companies traded on the London Stock Exchange and you can bump that to 26.46%. It’s still not incredibly cheap but, for a long-term owner, on a relative basis to what we have here in the United States, it’s far more attractive.)

      Sadly enough, I was supposed to be over there for a visit when one of my best friends from childhood got married and her husband was admitted to Oxford for graduate studies but there was an unexpected roadblock. For whatever reason, despite being an absolute perfect, model citizen both on paper and in real life, having impeccable credentials, and being the sort of person you should pay to visit your country, she was detained at the border for hours and kicked out of England for fear she might want to settle there and get a job. She explained she had no intention of getting local employment, she was just accompanying her husband (they had been married for mere days or perhaps weeks) during his 6 or 9 month stint during that particular academic window. Unfortunately, it was some weird thing where it wasn’t long enough to qualify for some special program, but it was too long to just be considered a holiday. They told her, if I recall correctly, they were going to put her back on a plane to the United States. She ended up living alone in France, right after her wedding, apart from her husband. She jokes that she can’t even watch Dr. Who now because, “All I hear is the voice of the oppressor”.

      • Intent-based immigration policy enforcement really is the worst.

        They don’t even keep out the true abusers, such as pregnant Chinese women (stereotypically, wives of officials who have stolen money) going to the US on tourism so that their children can become US citizens. I do like how popular US citizenship is. They’ll be surprised to learn about US taxation of worldwide income. (Of course it’s not strictly enforced now, but it will be, once the US and China work out a mutual agreement someday to share information.)

        It does lead to ordinary people being treated as criminals and animals who must prove that they don’t want to immigrate to a country. Not the attitude a country wants to convey in our world.

  • Steve Roberts

    I assume you are aware of this petition to break California into 6 separate states?
    http://www.sixcalifornias.com/the_six_states
    My family will be exploring Southern California this summer and I’m going to make sure I take my wife to Temecula at least one day. IDK if we can get to Ojai, Santa Ynez and Santa Barbara with the kids in tow. Gotta play at the beach to!