Expensive and complicated city regulations are prompting Brentwood’s popular Broken Road Farm to blaze a trail to Texas.
The 1.5-acre Minnesota Avenue farm grew into a community favorite last year, offering farm, art and gardening classes, camps and events. But an expensive, complicated property zoning change and city general plan amendment is needed for the operation to continue — a mandate that’s driving property owners Sara and Greg Mires to move it to Texas as soon as later this year.
“I just want to thank Brentwood for being the community I dreamt of for starting my business, and for seeing my vision and loving it,” said Sara, who plans to roll out exclusive reduced-priced deals to Brentwood residents visiting the new Texas farm. “I am just going to say, it’s not goodbye: it’s ‘come to Texas.’”
In a letter to the Brentwood City Council that the city shared with The Press, Community Development Director Alexis Morris confirmed that the current operation is not allowed by the city’s general plan or residential zoning regulations.
Morris said city leaders could address the discrepancy as part of the current zoning ordinance update. In this scenario, the planning commission and council could direct a minor general plan amendment in addition to new zoning standards that would allow these types of uses with a conditional use permit.
If the general plan and zoning changes were approved by council during the zoning ordinance update, then Broken Road Farm — and other uses that comply with the new standards — could apply for a use permit (an at least $2,200 charge) and go through an approval process, but with no guarantee of approval.
Another option is for Broken Road Farm to submit an application to the city requesting a general plan amendment, rezone and use permit, independent of the city’s zoning ordinance update, at a cost of at least $12,900 — and again, with no promise of the desired outcome.
The Mireses collected funds through a GoFundMe campaign to help cover the costs, and pondered covering the remaining required themselves, but then opted to explore a move.
“The more I thought about it, I couldn’t use these people’s money and then our money,” Sara said. “In the end it didn’t make sense to put in all this money just for a maybe. And then, if it was approved, there would be certain stipulations of how many people we could have here, and we would have to build an entire parking lot, and our property was shrinking.”
The Mireses and their growing Brentwood customer and volunteer base admit that the developments are a blow to the much-beloved local operation.
“It (the operation) is so necessary and so awesome, we are super sad,” said Leigh Burns Quan, a farm patron. “It’s a gap that will certainly need to be filled.”
The Mireses eyed and eventually purchased the 860 Minnesota Ave. property in 2019.
Having never owned a farm or farm animals other than chickens, Sara began volunteering at a Walnut Creek mini horse rescue to gain experience.
Within a month, she was bringing home two donkeys and a blind goat of her own.
As the pandemic struck, Mires said the animals and farm life became a safe sanctuary for activity-starved children and adults looking to escape a cooped-up lifestyle.
In time, the operation went from a few visitors to groups wanting to reserve spots.
At its height, the farm was hosting community classes and gatherings for crowds of around 100 that in part allowed visitors to interact with and care for cows, donkeys, pigs, goats, chickens and ducks. Visitors also participated in kids’ art classes and camps and went home with local goods, including home decor, fresh eggs, seasonal veggies, cookies, donuts and candles.
“We were putting our roots down here,” Sara said. “I thought maybe one day we would move to Texas to get more property or something, but it’s all happening quicker than expected. But I really do want Brentwood to know how I grew here. I got to put all my ideas out and do all my events and got to see that everyone loved it, so that is huge for me. “
Nine-year-old Meadow Quan, a frequent visitor of the farm, said she learned a lot while completing a Girl Scouts project that helped the operation establish their compost system.
“We did a lot of composting,” she said. “I am going to miss going there.”
Not all is lost, however, for the Mireses and for Broken Road’s loyal fans.
Sara said she intends to roll out an expanded and unimpeded Broken Road Farm in Texas, including overnight farm stays and exclusive Brentwood-resident deals.
The farm is expected to grow from its current 1.5 acres to 20, with an expanded group of mini highland cows, alpacas, donkeys, pigs and goats.
Preliminary plans call for the venture to offer luxury RV, yurt glamping and other stay options, complete with full farm-immersion opportunities such as feeding the animals, collecting eggs, completing chores and participating in nearby river and lake entertainment. A basket of farm-fresh goodies will also be sent home with each visitor.
Sara plans to exclusively offer the farm to Brentwood residents for a greatly reduced cost for the first few months, in return for using their photos for advertising.
“It is so near and dear to my heart because of all the good people I have met here, so to be able to offer them (Brentwood residents) something even more (is exciting),” Sara said. “Yes, you have to travel more, but it is close; it’s cheap flights, and once you get there, you get to experience it all on a way bigger level. In the first couple of months, it will be the cheapest vacation you have ever been on.”
At least one family says they plan to visit.
“We wish them the best and can’t wait to go visit them,” Burns Quan said. “We will definitely visit.”
Sara said she plans to keep her Farmher farm-inspired home décor line and encourages her fans to follow the operation’s Facebook (@brokenroadfarmca), Instagram (broken_road_farm1) and website (Brokenroadfarm.com) for continual updates on the farm.