Dorothea Lange’s iconic Migrant Mother photograph of a worried mother surrounded by her young children in Nipomo defined the Great Depression and the victims of the Dust Bowl.
The image resonates with Deanne Coon.
“I was born on a farm in Nebraska, and we were starving,” said the Nipomo resident. “My dad found just enough money to get us out of there, and we headed west.”
Coon lived in different parts of California until she discovered Nipomo in 1999 and saw a spot she could call home. “I came here and realized I had finally found what I had been looking for in a town,” she said. “It’s quiet and not far from the beach. You couldn’t ask for better weather.”
The weather is the key to Coon and husband Gary Saucerman’s business, The Luffa Farm. They grow luffa gourds, which mature into natural fibrous scrubbing sponges. Schoolchildren and visitors from all over the world come to tour the farm, and Coon is happy to show off her unusual gardens as well as her town.
She said she became interested in growing luffas by chance, when her friend had to grow them for a college class and asked her for help. Deanne was successful in growing the plant; her friend was not.
“Nipomo is the perfect spot to grow luffas, and they are not a forgiving plant. It’s like growing orchids. Not easy,” she said.
“Once I started to grow them, people started showing up. They somehow found me, and that’s not easy back here in this rural setting.”
The rural area also encourages the kind of community that suits Coon. “Nipomo is the kind of close-knit town where if someone needs something, they post it on Facebook, and the community shows up to help,” she said. “We support each other willingly,” she said. “The people here are the most genuine.”
Coon’s father quit farming when he left Nebraska and moved to the Los Angeles area. She said he finds it ironic that his daughter chose the life of a farmer after he had to find some other way to make a living to feed his family.
“He loves to come up here and see the farm and this beautiful town that we live in,” Coon said. “He says, ‘I brought you from and back to a farm.’ And he’s right, we’ve come full circle, only this time we made it work.”