Sitting between the mountains and the ocean, Valley Heart Ranch is steeped in Santa Barbara farming tradition and boasts the distinction of being Montecito’s only coffee farm.
The ranch started life in 1920 as a citrus farm and grew into a commercial floriculture nursery, providing plants to the famed San Ysidro Ranch and hotel.
The farm was owned and operated by the same family from 1953 until Kirsten and Darrell Becker looked beyond the greenhouses and saw an opportunity to add their creative touch and bought the property in 2015.
Darrell Becker is an architectural designer and founder of Becker Construction and Becker Studios in Santa Barbara.
Interior Designer and Becker Studios cofounder Kirsten Kemp Becker is the author of “Flipping Confidential” (2007) and the host of TLC’s “Hope for Your Home” and “Property Ladder” series. “It feels like a heart in the center of the valley. It’s like an anchor spot,” Kirsten Becker said.
The Beckers took out the greenhouses that covered the three lots and contemporized by replacing old windows, revamping the exterior and creating smooth lines within.
“The clapboard siding was taken off and put back on in not such a hodgepodge way to create a more balanced and harmonious look. We used everything salvageable and then added to it,” Darrell Becker said.
The Beckers later added an equestrian pavilion with a five-stall horse barn, a riding arena, a spectator’s patio, multiple corrals and a large (1,700 square foot) entertainer’s space on the second floor to complete the farm feel.
When it came to agriculture on the property, Darrell Becker said he loved the idea of a vineyard, but coffee made more sense.
“Having a Tuscany-inspired vineyard sounded romantic, but I soon discovered that that was the quickest way to lose about $5 million, so we went with the coffee farm,” he said.
While Kirsten Becker had no farming background, Darrell Becker had experience farming as a teen. And the family grew 3,900 coffee plants and harvested 2,500 pounds of coffee last year.
Kirsten Becker said the produce and the farm complete a perfect picture of a self-sustaining and beautiful property that is both insulated and close to town.
Dina Landi of Riskin Partners Estate Group of Village Properties is the listing agent for the property at 545 Toro Canyon and described it as a “beautiful terrace farm with a bucolic feel.”
“You can envision a life there,” Landi said. “It’s an amazing experience to have the horses and the goats and be able to pop into Montecito or Summerland, about 15 minutes away.”
On the market for $14.9 million, the estate holds four bedrooms in the main house for a total of seven bedrooms, 12 bathrooms and 4,469 square feet of living space. Other amenities include an ocean-view infinity pool, a sports lawn, a ranch office, greenhouses, a gym and a detached four-car garage that doubles as a full-sized pickle-ball court with steel walls and retractable glass.
A detached au pair suite is steps from the main house. And two one-bedroom guesthouses (1,006 square feet and 900 square feet) sit away from the main home and highlight a compound that could cater to a budding hotelier or multigenerational living.
Why sell? The couple are ready for a new venture.
“We want to explore our creativity and have a few more projects left in us. It’s just what we do,” Kirsten Becker said. “When I tell Darrell that it’s time to paint the master bedroom, he looks at me and says, ‘Okay, it’s time to sell.'”