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It's Harvest Time Down on the Farm--in Norwalk

August 09, 1992

Six acres of cornfields is all that's left of Bob and Margaret Scantlebury's field of dreams.

The Scantleburys own Paddison Farm in Norwalk, first plowed in 1879 by Bob Scantlebury's great-grandfather from Wales, back in the days when Southeast Los Angeles was a thriving agricultural and ranching region.

The other farms and ranches are gone now, but the Scantleburys hold on, planting sweet corn on the farm's remaining few acres and renting out the Victorian farmhouse--designed and built by Scantlebury's great-grandfather--for social gatherings.

Today marks the first time the Scantleburys have opened their farm to the public in celebration of the summer corn harvest. They're doing it to help raise money to preserve the farm's more than 100-year-old buildings, now so expensive to repair that the family has been unable to rehabilitate them. All proceeds raised from today's First Annual Corn Festival will go toward restoring the circa 1879 horse barn, one of four barns on the original farm.

Also on the grounds are the turn-of-the-century blacksmith shop, chicken coops, farm workers' cottages and gray-and-white two-story farmhouse with clapboard siding and a broad wooden porch. The festival will return city dwellers to lost Los Angeles, with hayrides and bluegrass music, country bands, mountain clogging, country-Western dance lessons, crafts and folk art, corn-shucking and frog-leaping contests, cornhusk doll-making demonstrations, a storyteller and baby farm animals.

The farm is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but that hasn't helped the family maintain it. "Developers keep knocking on our door and when we're struggling, it's tempting," Margaret Scantlebury said. "But our conscience keeps us from caving in. If we have to cave in years down the road, we can at least say we tried everything to keep the place going."

Bob Scantlebury's great-grandfather, John Paddison, died in the 1920s, when his son took over. After World War II, Southern California land values boomed as more and more ranchers and farmers sold out to developers. The Paddisons held on until the early '50s, when the Santa Ana Freeway cut through a cornfield. Bit by bit, the Scantleburys sold 300 acres and and reduced the family holdings to six, as the surrounding landscape filled with housing tracts, schools and shopping centers.

Bob Scantlebury remembers his grandparents working the farm through the '60s, growing alfalfa and the corn used to make hominy. "I was totally surprised when I came back from the service (in Vietnam) and the eastern 20 acres were a Montgomery Wards. The property became economically unfeasible to farm," he said.

Still, the Scantleburys and their two grown sons hold on to the past. "We feel strong family ties here," Bob Scantlebury said. "It's held a special place in my heart, these last six acres. It's hard when something becomes irreplaceable, like the chicken coop or the barn. If there's no money to save it, then it's gone. There are a lot of things like that here."

Though the Scantleburys could easily retire if they sold the property to developers, they continue to struggle to keep what's left.

"My great-grandfather built this house himself," Bob Scantlebury said. "It's real difficult to think about bulldozing it down to build a shopping center."

Paddison Farm is located at 11951 Imperial Highway in Norwalk, between Pioneer and Norwalk boulevards. Admission to today's festival is $5 per person; $3 for children under 10. For festival reservations or information, or for details on using the farm for a special occasion, call (310) 863-4567.

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