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Open Access Publications from the University of California
Cover page of Mark Lipson: Senior Analyst and Program Director, Organic Farming Research Foundation

Mark Lipson: Senior Analyst and Program Director, Organic Farming Research Foundation


Mark Lipson is senior analyst and policy program director for the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF). In these interviews, conducted by Ellen Farmer at Molino Creek Farm on June 5, August 25, and December 21, 2007, Lipson describes his long and productive career working on behalf of organic farming policy at the state and federal levels.

As an environmental studies major at UC Santa Cruz in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Lipson focused on planning and public policy, addressing issues such as offshore oil drilling on the California coast. While he was a student, he helped found a student housing co-op, and served as president of Our Neighborhood Food Co-op, a natural foods store that eventually morphed into New Leaf Community Market. After graduation, this involvement with the co-op movement inspired Lipson to help organize Molino Creek, a co-operative farming community located in the hills above the ocean near Davenport, California. Molino Creek pioneered the growing of flavorful, dry-farmed tomatoes (grown without irrigation).

Seeking organic certification for Molino Creek, Lipson began attending meetings of the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF). He soon became CCOF’s first paid staff member, working there from 1985 to 1992, steering the organization through the establishment of a statewide office as well as several key historical events that awakened the American public’s interest in organic food. The Organic Center calls Lipson “the primary midwife” of the California Organic Foods Act (COFA) of 1990, sponsored by then-State Assemblymember Sam Farr. Recalling his work with Lipson on COFA, Sam Farr remarked (in his oral history in this series), “I tell the world that the organic movement started in California, in Santa Cruz County, and the guru of that is Mark [Lipson].”

Over the past two decades with OFRF (an organization which he helped to found), Lipson shepherded several historic changes in agricultural funding through Congress, such as a 2008 Farm Bill that secures a five-fold increase in government funding for organic research (though this still represents only one percent of the USDA’s research budget). He is perhaps best known as the author of the 1997 study Searching for the ‘O-Word’, which documented the absence of publicly funded organic research at a critical political moment in the trajectory of the organic farming movement.

Lipson chaired the California Organic Foods Advisory Board from 1991 to 1998. In 1992, he received the annual Sustie (“Steward of Sustainable Agriculture”) Award, presented at the Ecological Farming Conference, and in 2009 Nutrition Business Journal gave him their Organic Excellence award.

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Cover page of Russel and Karen Wolter: Down to Earth Farm

Russel and Karen Wolter: Down to Earth Farm


Born in Pacific Grove, the descendent of pioneers who came to California with the De Anza party in 1774, Russel Wolter has been farming “organically” since he was fourteen, when his mother forbade him to use chemical fertilizers and sprays on their ranch in the Carmel Valley. That was in 1947, decades before organic certification, but Wolter’s expertise in organic farming methods became a valuable resource to a newer generation of farmers who began farming organically in the 1970s. After his mother’s death, Russel and his wife, Karen, farmed forty-five acres of the family ranch as Down to Earth Farm, growing a variety of crops, including sweet corn, tomatoes, squash, red and white chard, kale, collards, cucumbers, apricots, plums, winter squash, pumpkins, and fava beans. They distributed their produce through Bud Capurro’s distribution company based in Moss Landing, California, and also sold directly at farmers’ markets in the area. Down to Earth Farm was part of the original organic certification program initiated by Rodale Press’s Organic Farming and Gardening Magazine in 1971. Russel was a founding member of California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) and received a Stewards of Sustainable Agriculture (Sustie) Award in 1994. Russel and Karen are now retired from farming, and lease their land to Earthbound Farms. Ellen Farmer conducted this interview with Russel and Karen at their home in Carmel Valley on March 28, 2007.

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Cover page of Stephen Kaffka: Pioneering UCSC Farm and Garden Manager, Agronomist

Stephen Kaffka: Pioneering UCSC Farm and Garden Manager, Agronomist


Stephen (Steve) Kaffka came to UC Santa Cruz as a philosophy student in 1967 and began volunteering in Alan Chadwick’s Student Garden Project in the same year. He worked side-by-side with Alan Chadwick and eventually became the student president of the Garden in 1968. In this oral history, conducted by Ellen Farmer at her house in Santa Cruz, California on August 31, 2007, Kaffka shares his recollections of Alan Chadwick and the Garden in the late 1960s and early 1970s, as well as the period after Chadwick left, when Kaffka managed the Farm and Garden and formalized the apprentice program through University of California Santa Cruz Extension.

Although Alan Chadwick was deeply troubled by the specialization and fragmentation of scientific practice within the academy, paradoxically, Kaffka, perhaps Chadwick’s closest apprentice at UCSC, ended up with a distinguished career as a research agronomist. After he left UC Santa Cruz in 1977, Kaffka earned his Ph.D. in agronomy from Cornell University, and now directs UC Davis’s Center for Integrated Farming Systems. He is also director of the California Biomass Collaborative and extension specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of California, Davis. He chairs the BioEnergy Work Group for the University of California’s Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and participates on several advisory committees for the California Energy Commission and California Air Resources Board. Kaffka conducts research on water quality and agriculture in the Upper Klamath Basin, and the reuse of saline drainage water for crop, forage, energy biomass feedstocks and livestock production in salt-affected areas of the San Joaquin Valley. He has M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from Cornell University in agronomy and a B.S. from UC Santa Cruz in biology. In May, 2008, Kaffka was the subject of an NPR documentary, “Are Organic Tomatoes Better?” which featured his research comparing the nutritious value of organic versus conventionally grown tomatoes.

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Cover page of Jeff Larkey: Route One Farms

Jeff Larkey: Route One Farms


Jeff Larkey was born in Montreal, Canada, but his father’s family has been in California since 1849. Larkey spent part of his childhood in the Carmel Valley of California, and in Davis, California, working summers in the fields and processing plants of the conventional agriculture world. He came to Santa Cruz in 1973 to enroll in Cabrillo College’s solar technology program, where he also studied horticulture with Richard Merrill. In the late 1970s, Larkey moved onto a commune on Ivy Lane in Live Oak—an unincorporated, then still somewhat rural area of Santa Cruz County, where he and his fellow commune members grew basil and garlic as well as other crops on four acres of land, and transported them via bicycle to sell at the Live Oak Farmers’ market. These crop choices helped establish a taste among local community members for fresh pesto, creating a lasting legacy.

In 1981, Larkey left that commune to farm along the fertile floodplain of the San Lorenzo River on Ocean Street Extension in Santa Cruz. His farming operation was certified by CCOF [California Certified Organic Farmers] in 1985, and eventually became Route One Farms. Larkey originally ran the farm together with Jonathan Steinberg (known as ‘Steiny’), but since 2002 has been the sole proprietor. Route One leases sixty-five acres of land in several locations in Santa Cruz County, including Rancho del Oso along Waddell Creek in Big Basin State Park. This oral history was conducted by Ellen Farmer on June 23, 2007, at the offices of Route One Farms in Santa Cruz, California.

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Cover page of Roy Fuentes: Fuentes Berry Farms

Roy Fuentes: Fuentes Berry Farms


As president of Fuentes Berry Farms, Rogelio (Roy) Fuentes is one of many independent growers producing organic berries for Driscoll’s—a company that was initiated more than a century ago by two strawberry farmers on California’s Central Coast, and has since evolved into an international concern devoted to research, breeding, production, sales and distribution of conventionally and organically farmed strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries. Driscoll’s CEO Miles Reiter and his brother Garland, CEO of Reiter Affiliated Companies, are the grandsons of Joseph “Ed” Reiter, who began growing strawberries in the Pajaro Valley with Dick Driscoll in 1904. The Reiters have a reputation for providing partnership opportunities for talented, hardworking, ambitious Mexican American farmers.

Fuentes was born in San Pedro Tesistan, Jalisco, Mexico, and came to Watsonville, California, as a teenager. He spent summers harvesting the berry fields his father managed. After graduating from Watsonville High School in 1979, Fuentes worked in banking for a while, but five years later returned to the fields. He began harvesting strawberries and rapidly worked his way up to management positions. Gradually branching out into blackberries and raspberries, he also became interested, in 1994, in organic cultivation. Since 2003 he has been producing organic berries exclusively. His growing company employs some 100 workers, providing health insurance and a small number of paid holidays.

Sarah Rabkin interviewed Roy Fuentes on June 16, 2009, at the Reiter Affiliated Companies offices in Salinas, California. That morning, the San Jose Mercury News had reported that an organic blackberry grower near Watsonville had lost twenty percent or more of his crop to a recent invader from Australia, the light brown apple moth—sending “a shudder” through the agricultural community. Local organic berry growers were engaging in concerted deliberations about how best to respond.

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Cover page of Larry Jacobs: Jacobs Farm/Del Cabo

Larry Jacobs: Jacobs Farm/Del Cabo


Larry Jacobs is the co-founder of Jacobs Farm/Del Cabo with his wife, Sandra Belin. He was born in 1950 in the San Fernando Valley near Los Angeles, California. As a young man, he owned and managed a tree nursery. When aphids infested some of his trees, a pesticide inspector sold him Metasystox to apply with a backpack sprayer. Jacobs temporarily became very ill from pesticide exposure. Vowing never to apply pesticides again, he searched for alternatives. Jacobs was lucky to find a mentor in Everett (“Deke”) Dietrick, a pioneer in the integrated pest management field, who taught him how to control the aphid infestation through IPM methods.

Shortly after that, Jacobs left the nursery business to study soil science at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) in San Luis Obispo. After graduation, he moved to Vermont to apprentice with Helen and Scott Nearing, world-famous grandparents of the back-to-the-land and simple-living movements in the United States. In Vermont, Jacobs met his future wife, Sandra Belin. After a stint in Guatemala helping bring appropriate technology to the Western Highlands region, he and Sandra moved to Pescadero, California, a small town nestled in the rounded hills above the Pacific Ocean in San Mateo County, where in 1980 they founded Jacobs Farm. Jacobs Farm is now the largest organic culinary herb producer in the United States, growing sixty varieties of fresh culinary herbs and culinary flowers at seven farming locations on the Central Coast of California.

In 1986, Larry and Sandra were inspired to work with a cooperative of family farmers in Baja California, Mexico, to start the Del Cabo organic growers association. Together they created an international market for organic vegetables grown in Baja California for shipment north, especially during the winter season. Jacobs Farm became Jacobs Farm/Del Cabo.

Now each of Del Cabo’s farmers earns between $24,000 and $100,000 a year and receives retirement benefits and health insurance for life. Del Cabo imports nineteen million pounds of cherry tomatoes and other vegetables into U.S. markets, and as far away as Iceland and Dubai. As of 2009, Jacobs Farm/Del Cabo farms a total of 3700 field acres, and 22 acres of greenhouses.

In 2008, Jacobs won a landmark pesticide drift case against pesticide application company Western Farm Service, Inc. The court found that the contamination of organic crops caused by pesticides drifting after application violated the rights of the organic crop grower. Jacobs’ narration of the events surrounding that case is a critical part of his oral history.

This oral history, conducted by Irene Reti on March 11 and June 10, 2008, at the Jacobs Farm/Del Cabo offices in Santa Cruz, was conducted over several evenings at the end of Jacobs’ busy days. He is a vivid and natural storyteller.

In 2009, Jacobs and Belin received the Ecological Farming Association’s (Eco-Farm) “Stewards of Sustainable Agriculture” or “Sustie” award for their lifetime achievements in sustainable agriculture.

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Cover page of Jim Leap: Farm Manager, Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems

Jim Leap: Farm Manager, Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems


Since 1990, Jim Leap has managed the 25-acre farm at UC Santa Cruz—designing crop systems, overseeing production, purchasing and maintaining equipment, teaching apprentices, supervising staff, coordinating field research, helping write training manuals, and educating students and visitors about the farm. In March, 2009, he was recognized with the UC Small Farm Program’s Pedro Ilic Award for Outstanding Educator. The honor is named for an influential Fresno County small-farm advisor who was an important mentor to Leap.

With California family roots reaching back to the 1850s, Leap grew up in California’s Central Valley. His father, an independent insurance agent and anti-racism activist, wrote policies for the United Farm Workers at a time when other insurers refused the organization’s business. Growing up in the 1960s, the young Leap was exposed to UFW grape boycotts, Teatro Campesino productions, and other activities connected with the farm worker movement. As a teenager, he harvested grapes in 110-degree heat—straining to keep pace with his fellow workers, and learning firsthand about the human costs of large-scale, profit-first farm practices.

After graduating from Fresno High in 1973, frustrated by the circuitous and drawn-out aspects of political activism, Leap sought to challenge the agribusiness status quo in a more direct, hands-on way. He ended up founding a successful small farming operation of his own, where he emphasized sustainable methods, drawing inspiration and guidance from innovative Central Valley growers. He also worked as crop production manager for a federally funded program that trained Native American farmers, a position that enabled him to run field trials for novel production techniques.

At thirty, Leap returned to school, completing an agricultural science degree at Fresno State while maintaining his farm, and graduating with honors in five years. He envisioned continuing on to a master’s degree and eventually becoming a farm advisor. Instead, at a friend’s urging, he applied for the operations-manager position at the UCSC Farm, and was offered the job, which has been more than a full-time occupation ever since. Sarah Rabkin interviewed Jim Leap in the Regional History Project offices at McHenry Library, UCSC, on June 9, 2008.

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Cover page of Orin Martin: Manager, Alan Chadwick Garden, CASFS

Orin Martin: Manager, Alan Chadwick Garden, CASFS


Orin Martin manages the Alan Chadwick Garden at UC Santa Cruz, where he is widely admired for his skills as a master orchardist, horticulturalist, and teacher. Martin grew up an athletic and outdoors-oriented child in Massachusetts, Florida, New York State, and Ohio—without any interest in gardening, which struck him as “an onerous chore, and kind of sissy stuff, actually.” While he was in Washington, D.C. in the late 1960s, as a student at American University, he “got politicized” by current events: some 100,000 citizens marched on the Pentagon to protest the Vietnam war; Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated. In 1969, exhausted and alienated after a lonely struggle to avoid the military draft, Martin followed some friends to Santa Cruz, where he heard about “this place called ‘The Garden’”—the one being cultivated by Alan Chadwick and his protégés on the UCSC campus. “I wandered up there one morning,” said Martin in this interview, “and I was just bowled over, and fell in love with it, and felt, I have to do this.” Martin had no training as a gardener. His unfinished undergraduate studies were in English; his interests leaned toward writing and literature. Suddenly infatuated with the Chadwick garden nonetheless, he attended public lectures given by Alan Chadwick on the campus and in town. In 1972, shortly after Chadwick had left Santa Cruz and the UCSC Farm had been launched, Martin began volunteering several days a week at the Farm and Garden. When the apprenticeship program there became formalized under Chadwick successor Stephen Kaffka, Martin applied; after completing the apprenticeship in 1975, he received a grant to start a community gardening program in various locations around Santa Cruz County. In 1977, UCSC hired Martin and a colleague named “Big” Jim Nelson (not to be confused with the Jim Nelson interviewed in this series) to oversee the Farm and Garden. More than thirty years later, countless productive garden beds, fruit trees, and former apprentices bear vital testimony to the effectiveness of Martin’s ministrations. In this interview—conducted on July 11th and August 29th, 2008, at UCSC’s Science and Engineering Library—Orin Martin spoke with Sarah Rabkin about his work with the Farm and Garden and the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, his cultivation of an organic rose collection and orchards of citrus and deciduous fruit tree varieties especially suited to the local climate, and his mentorship of Farm and Garden apprentices.

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Cover page of Guillermo Payet: Founder,

Guillermo Payet: Founder,


Guillermo Payet is the founder of, a leading organic and local food website that maintains a public nationwide directory of small farms, farmers’ markets, and other local food sources; helps eaters find products from family farms, as well as other local sources of sustainably grown food, and encourages them to establish direct contact with small farms in their area.

Payet grew up in Lima, Peru, in the 1960s and 1970s. His family visited small farms in the Andes and fishing villages on the Peruvian coast, where he learned to savor the taste of local food. As Payet writes on his website, “During the 1980s, Peru was victimized by two opposing forces: the dehumanizing economic colonialism of transnationals, and the misguided rage and violence of the Maoist Shining Path. These two forces wreaked havoc in the country . . . Family farms found it impossible to compete with cheap, subsidized agricultural products dumped into Peruvian markets by richer countries, and the impoverished Andean people were forced by the violence of the civil war to flee their rural villages. Millions were forced into lives of abject poverty in polluted and overcrowded cities, working for pennies in factories (if lucky enough to find a job) producing cheap products for export, helping generate profits that would never benefit them or their families.”

When car bombs began blowing out the windows of his home, Payet decided to leave Peru. He came to the United States as a student, entering a computer science program at Santa Clara University, and then beginning a career as a systems engineer. He eventually started Ocean Group, a web development company. By coincidence, he rented an office location next door to the offices of Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF), and developed a friendship with Reggie Knox [also interviewed for this project], who was working for CAFF at the time. Knox and Payet began talking about the fate of small farms in the United States, and began as a project of Ocean Group in 1999.

In this oral history, conducted by Ellen Farmer at her house in Santa Cruz, California, on October 7, 2007, Payet describes the growth of As of 2009, the company has 19,000 members, including 11,740 farms and 4,425 farmers markets, and is growing by twenty members a day. As the Buy Local movement has burgeoned, so has interest in the website, which receives 22,000 hits a day. Even since this 2007 interview took place, business has burgeoned. Payet’s goal is to “leverage the Internet and the vast array of community-owned tools provided by the world of Open Source software to help build virtual communities, and to use these as tools for achieving a sustainable future for real, physical communities.” His company attracts significant attention from Time magazine, Wired, Redbook, ABC-TV, the New York Times, and other media outlets.

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Cover page of Cynthia Sandberg: Love Apple Farm

Cynthia Sandberg: Love Apple Farm


Cynthia Sandberg is proprietor of Love Apple Farm—an establishment unique among Central Coast small farms in its combination of biodynamic techniques, an exclusive supply relationship with a single high-end restaurant, a focus on heirloom tomatoes, a rich public offering of on-farm classes, and a successful Internet-based marketing strategy.

Love Apple occupies two productive acres in Ben Lomond, in Santa Cruz County’s San Lorenzo Valley. Sandberg farms according to the biodynamic principles developed in the 1920s by Rudolph Steiner, and is seeking certification for Love Apple through Demeter USA, the country’s only certifying agent for biodynamic farms. In addition to shunning synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, a certified biodynamic farm must also be managed, according to Demeter’s website, as if it were “a living organism,” minimizing waste and external inputs.

As the kitchen garden for upscale Manresa restaurant in nearby Los Gatos (Santa Clara County), Love Apple enjoys a symbiotic business relationship with the two-Michelin-star restaurant and its executive chef-proprietor, David Kinch, who often visits the farm. While Sandberg grows a wide variety of produce for Manresa and for sale in her seasonal on-site farm cart, she specializes in heirloom tomatoes, of which she produces more than 100 varieties. (Locals sometimes refer to her as “The Tomato Lady.”) She sells tomato starts every spring, and teaches popular classes on a wide variety of topics including growing tomatoes from seed, building tomato cages, and gardening in containers. And she has cultivated an effective online marketing strategy centered on her blog/website.

Farming is a second career for Sandberg, a former attorney. She unwittingly launched her new life in the early 1990s, when, hoping to improve her rudimentary gardening skills, she enrolled in horticulture classes at Cabrillo, Santa Cruz County’s community college. A few years later, her early-spring gardening preparations proved unexpectedly successful, and she found herself puzzling about what to do with 290 excess tomato seedlings. She arrayed them in the driveway along with a sign and an honor-system money jar—and passersby quickly snapped them up. Thus was born Love Apple Farm.

“Love apple” is an old French name for the tomato, historically associated with aphrodisiac qualities. The farm’s name also commemorates Harry Love, a former Texas Ranger who led the attack on Mexican Robin-Hood figure Joaquin Murrieta and his band of outlaws in San Benito County in 1853. Sandberg has been told that the house she inhabits, now surrounded by garden beds and greenhouses, was built with Love’s reward money.

Sarah Rabkin interviewed Cynthia Sandberg on the back porch of Sandberg’s Love Apple farmhouse in Ben Lomond, California, on March 9, 2009.

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