C California Style

The new FARMSUPERBA. PHOTO: Liz Kuball.
Heirloom tomato and burrata salad with freshly picked purslane and dandelion. PHOTO: Skandia Shafer.
Guerra gets her hands dirty. PHOTO: Liz Kuball.
The farm's hydroponic towers hold up to 880 plants at a time. PHOTO: Liz Kuball.

Growing Wise

by C California Style

Urban culinary farmer Courtney Guerra puts down new Venice roots with FarmSuperba.

Working among Venice’s tightly packed bungalows and businesses makes perfect sense to gardener Courtney Guerra. In this wildly creative community, “you can start to see spaces differently and not take things at face value,” says the former pro beach volleyball player and trained chef.

Guerra has most recently put this exercise into practice at FarmSuperba, a former patch of asphalt located behind restaurateur Paul Hibler’s Superba Food + Bread on Lincoln Boulevard that’s now sprouting with edible plants.

Guerra grew up in Simi Valley, graduated from UC Santa Barbara, attended the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone and worked the kitchen line and in the gardens at Napa’s legendary The Restaurant at Meadowood before moving to Venice in 2013. The sum of these experiences helped cement her reputation as a go-to resource for chefs, most notably Ari Taymor of the erstwhile Alma restaurant downtown, who worked Guerra’s esoteric produce into each of his dishes.

She doesn’t view herself as a competitor  to the growers who populate the nearby famous Santa Monica Farmers Market on Wednesdays, “but I do have these different weird things that you can’t find,” says Guerra, who avidly forages for edibles in nearby mountains, too.

At the FarmSuperba plot—which flanks the restaurant as well as boutiques The Golden State and Bassike—Guerra minds the beds and space-conscious vertical hydroponic garden towers, which look as if they might spring to life like characters out of a fantasy novel. In an amusing twist on the classic Joni Mitchell song lyric “they paved paradise and put up a parking lot,” Superba Food + Bread’s kitchen serves a form of parking-lot-to-table cuisine, where purslane, dandelion greens and various hard-to-find gems are harvested a few feet away from the dining room.

“OK, what can we do here? What is it capable of?” she recalls discussing early on with the FarmSuperba team. The project’s broadened scope now includes yoga classes and plans for hands-on creative workshops. And because Guerra believes “everyone should have access to clean, safe, nutritious food,” she’s actively involved with local nonprofit and educational organizations.

“We had this vision. Now it’s time to do it,” Guerra says, taking in the ever-increasing fresh sights and smells of her latest environmental transformation. courtneyguerrafarms .com. • JESSICA RITZ