The Leichtag Foundation has signed an option agreement to purchase the Paul Ecke Ranch property in Encinitas that is located between Saxony Road and Quail Gardens Drive, adjacent to the San Diego Botanic Garden. The 67-acres of land houses some 850,000 square feet of greenhouse space. The Foundation plans to create a cultural and community resource for the San Diego region and the Jewish community at the ranch.
“We see the purchase of this property as a way to ensure the land’s use as unique space that inspires the community,” said James Farley, Leichtag Foundation’s president and CEO. ”Our founders, Lee and Toni Leichtag, cared deeply for the North County community where they lived and worked. This purchase honors and makes permanent their loving legacy, investing in a deeper sense of place and a more sustainable community.”
The Foundation is focused on combating poverty and increasing self-sufficiency for residents of coastal North County; supporting and inspiring vibrant Jewish life in coastal North County; strengthening education about the Holocaust and its modern-day lessons for tolerance, understanding, and civility; stimulating renewal, service, and social activism in Jerusalem, Israel; and building strong connections and relationships between San Diego and Israel.
“While we don’t yet know the details of the site’s long-term use, we believe the kind of uses that will be explored include urban farming, service learning, expansion of the San Diego Botanic Garden, educational and cultural programs, and support of a strong Jewish community in North County,” Farley said. “Our purchase ensures that it will not be used for development of residential subdivisions, commercial office parks, or shopping centers. Of course, any plan for this land will go through the appropriate public process that includes community engagement.”
Paul Ecke, owner of the ranch, said, “This was a difficult decision for me. While we have properties all over the world, this is my family’s legacy and the house I grew up in. But I have honed a business model that will work for the long term, and I see this as the best decision for the company and the beginning of a new era for Paul Ecke Ranch. We are excited to continue our research and development work and leadership in the poinsettia and flower development markets, and we will use the transition to find the right site. I couldn’t have found a better buyer, and I hope the community will work with the Leichtag Foundation to create something here that can be really great for North County.”
Today the Leichtag Foundation expects the land will be used for continuing agricultural operations. Paul Ecke Ranch will hold a multi-year lease for their flower research and development while they seek a new location. Other growers will continue to lease and use greenhouse space for years to come. The Leichtag Foundation will also explore complementary uses, such as urban farming, service learning, and community engagement, which may start in the near term.