by LIZ ONUFER | photos by Samantha Gleaton Photography

Working with Nature

faces_sainz2An edible food forest may sound like something out of a fairy tale, but Elizabeth and Eric Sainz have created this setting in their Vista backyard. Memories of delicious homegrown tomatoes and corn from their childhood inspired the couple to invest their time and energy into the backyard makeover. “We had fun transforming this neglected land that was once covered in weeds and trash into a vibrant, abundant garden,” the couple shared.

Both natives of Orange County, the choice to move to Vista had clear benefits. “It is close to the beach, but with a sunny climate, a country feel, and great real estate value,” Elizabeth and Eric shared. “After moving here, we discovered that the people of 92081 are very friendly, too!” Eric is a plumber specializing in new construction and remodeling, and Elizabeth is a bookkeeper/accountant specializing in small businesses.

Name: Elizabeth and Eric Sainz
Professions: Farmers at Aloha Farms; Eric – Plumber; Elizabeth – Accountant
Hobbies: Hiking, beach activities, reading, following sports
Favorite Spots in Vista: Alta Vista Gardens, Main Street

faces_sainz1The couple started by planting an orchard, but not long after they learned about Paul Gautschi, who grew his Washington orchard for 30 years without watering or fertilizing it. Intrigued, Elizabeth and Eric began to use Paul’s principles – today, a movement called Sustainable Permaculture. By emulating the forest and covering the ground in compostable materials, diverse plants will grow together. The couple’s edible forest is filled with everything from almonds and aloe vera to coffee, potatoes, and olives. “Covering the parched, cracked, battleship-gray clay soil with organic material transformed it into a crumbly, earth-smelling, worm-inhabited fertile soil that’s easy to grow anything in,” they explained.

The garden is not without its challenges, but the couple uses creative solutions. Small portable fences keep the small animals out. The turkeys help keep the bugs in check and their waste aids in the decomposition process. The outdoor shower and sink drain directly to the ground to replenish the water table. “We continuously learn and experiment with ways to make the garden more successful and easy,” Elizabeth and Eric said, and they share it all on their blog at

While the fruits of their labor are healthy and delicious, the edible forest brings the couple more than food. “We can quiet our minds and learn many spiritual truths as we see them mirrored in nature. We learn virtues like patience and hope and faith, and that rewards come for hard work,” they acknowledged. “We are very thankful for our health, peacefulness, and the sense of wonder that being in nature gives to us.”