The OC Great Park is a 1,300 acre blank slate; a precious parcel of land with an ambitious future.
The Park is twice the size of New York's Central Park, and with so much open space available,
the sky's the limit.
Most people know that The Great Park sits on land that used to be the El Toro Marine Base.
But few know what was there before the squadrons of fighter jets came to stay.
The Great Park was once part of Jame H. Irvine's beloved ranch, the 100,000 acre landholding than extended from the Santa Ana Mountains all the way to the Pacific Ocean.
Even though James Irvine, Sr. was one of the most successful men in California, he saw himself as a farmer.
Unfortunately, the land he inherited had a limited water supply. Before he developed irrigation systems on the ranch, he looked for crops that could grow in the dry climate.
The answer was lima beans.
Lots of them.
In fact, by 1911, the Irvine Ranch boasted the largest lima bean field in the world, with about 18,000 acres planted. This bumper crop of lima beans came just in time to aid the World War I war effort. The nutritious and easy-to-store beans were shipped to the troops.
The beans were harvested in large threshing operations that set up out in the field to separate the beans from the stalks.
The bags of beans were then transported to the warehouse near the Santa Fe railway for storage and transport. These historic structures are still standing today in Old Town Irvine.
Inside the warehouse, beans moved along conveyor belts so that "bean pickers" could separate the good from the bad.
The OC Great Park sits on what was once James Irvine's most productive lima bean field.
A view from the Great Park Balloon shows the size of this former agricultural jewel.
Today, visitors to the park can find a bit of Irvine's agricultural heritage at the Farm and Food Lab.
The Farm and Food Lab offers educational programs on sustainable home gardening, which make the most of limited space and water resources.
Crops from the Farm and Food Lab are harvested and delivered to local food banks such as Second Harvest and The Orange County Food Bank. At retail prices, the Farm and Food Lab has donated crops valued at more than $30,000 to help offset serious local food shortages.
James Irvine would have appreciated that.
Farm and Food Lab
Check Website for Schedule of Monthly Classes