Dana Family Farms enjoys community support

Avenly Dana prepares to squeeze fresh lemons for her lemonade stand at Dana Family Farms. Anza Valley Outlook/Courtesy photo

A simple lemonade stand for a school project has blossomed into a mother/daughter business venture that is becoming a community go-to place for fresh beverages, hand-picked vegetables, lively conversation and home-baked goods.

“My youngest daughter, Avenly, age 9, had a school project to design a lemonade stand,” Lydia Dana said. “She had always wanted one, but we didn’t think that it would be practical in our rural setting, so she was thrilled to get the assignment. My 15-year-old son, Bryton, helped her build a stand out of pallets, and when summer arrived, we decided to let her try her hand at selling some lemonade mix and a few of the extra vegetables that we had grown. We honestly didn’t expect much, if any, business for her, and we were fully prepared to console her at the end of the day.”

The Dana Family Farm’s lemonade stand offers more than just lemonade. Anza Valley Outlook/Courtesy photo

Dana said she was surprised by the amount of community support her daughter received upon opening the stand. Neighbors offered fresh lemons, and Avenly switched to serving fresh squeezed lemonade, investing her profits into buying a hand squeezer.

Refinements to the stand continued, as cups with lids and straws became standard and customers could adjust their drink’s tartness by adjusting the lemon to sugar water ratio for each order.

“It wasn’t long before we began getting requests for goodies to go along with the lemonade,” Dana said.

Mother Lydia Dana and daughter Avenly Dana enjoy a lot of together time while operating the Dana Family Farms lemonade stand in Sage. Anza Valley Outlook/Courtesy photo

Wanting to be in compliance with all of the correct codes and regulations, Dana said she took the appropriate steps with the Riverside County Department of Environmental Health to obtain a food handler’s certificate and become a licensed cottage kitchen operation.

The stand’s baked goods have become favorite pairings with the custom beverages.

“Ultimately, our vision is to have large pumpkin and watermelon patches and to offer a lot more of our home-grown produce, along with our baked goods,” Dana said. “In a rural community like Sage, where your neighbors may be half a mile away, a spot to pull over and chat about the family or commiserate about the gophers that are wreaking havoc in our gardens, or even just be able to learn the names of those people you see at the mailbox every so often, all while enjoying a glass of lemonade, picking up a sweet summer watermelon or sharing a pie is desperately needed.”

The entire family has been very supportive, she said, and they are all proud of how hard Avenly has worked and the drive that she has shown. They have all offered to help out in any way that they can, from expanding her stand, to putting up signs, planting crops and helping with kitchen cleanup, Dana said.

Freshly baked blackberry cobbler is one of the baked offerings at Dana Family Farms. Anza Valley Outlook/Courtesy photo

“The community support has been incredible, and we are beyond grateful for the success that the lemonade and farm stand have had. The majority of our sales are from our regulars, who stop by almost every day that we are open for a cup of lemonade and some cookies or brownies to enjoy on the way home or to place a pie order. I honestly couldn’t even ballpark a number for sales, because it’s always been about building something that is worth more, in our opinion, than money. Our profit margins are pretty small, because we want to keep everything affordable and enjoyable. We started as a country farm stand, and that is where we will always be rooted – even if our pies become “Julian” level famous,” Dana said. “She has served hundreds of customers in the past few weeks, and every one of them has offered a smile, a compliment and a warmth that has oftentimes left me in awe. We see so much divisiveness in the world today, so much fighting and anger, but all I have seen – since the day she poured her first glass of lemonade – was love, compassion and encouragement.”

Avenly Dana said she has learned so much from her teamwork with her mother.

“When you try hard and work hard, people want to help and support you,” she said. “I like making lemonade and baking, but my customers are my favorite part of the lemonade stand. I made so many new friends, and seeing them is the best. They encourage me and make me feel like I can do anything.”

Whenever possible, Dana Farms bakes using locally sourced products like olive oil from Macala Orchards or produce from Broberg Family Farm. Lydia Dana said they believe in using products that are fresh and grown locally, as it not only makes for better tasting food but also helps support the local economy and small-business owners, which are so important in the mountain communities of Sage, Aguanga and Anza.

Dana Farms’ regular hours are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 2-5:30 p.m. Orders may also be placed by email at Danafamilyfarms@gmail.com, and they can make special pickup arrangements for baked goods outside their normal hours. The stand is located at 40370 Cactus Valley Road in Sage.

Visit them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/DanaFamilyFarms/.

Diane Sieker can be reached by email at dsieker@reedermedia.com.