History of The Land
Photos credit of Mike Merritt.
The land was originally inhabited seasonally by the Quiroste, a group of Ohlone Native Americans. It was cleared and settled by the Steele Family in the early 1900's. In 1906, I.C. Steele built the farmhouse (that now houses us) and started an extensive apple orchard. Over the decades, the Steele family also raised flax for the war, dry beans, beef cattle and hay, among other crops. The farmhouse and two sheds are the original buildings that stand today. It is with respect and gratitude that we pay homage to all of the hard work and commitment of our predecessors.
The Farm Today
We are blessed to own a 63-acre parcel of the original Steele Ranch. This parcel is nestled against the Santa Cruz mountains, borders Green Oaks Creek, and is replete with riparian areas, rolling meadows, coastal live oaks, redwoods, hiking trails and ocean views. Production on the farm includes four acres of organic vegetables, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, herbs, flowers and eggs. Our chickens are rotationally grazed on pasture. Electricity on the farm comes from an array of solar panels. The farm is certified organic by Global Culture. Income on the farm is generated from the sale of produce to the Palo Alto farmers market, the Mission Bay at UCSF farmers market, the Mission Rock farmers market, a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Program, a few local restaurants, and weddings that occur at Green Oaks.
Meet the Owners
We, the owners of Green Oaks, are Paul Pfluke and Stephanie Jennings. Before starting the farm at Green Oaks, we worked on farms in the Santa Cruz area and in Costa Rica. We also taught environmental education for several years. One day we decided to combine our love of farming and environmental teaching with our desire to help create a more just, sustainable, and healthy food system by starting an organic, educational farm. To achieve this goal, we earned Masters of Science degrees in Plant and Soil Science. We also completed course work in Holistic Resource Management and Permaculture Design. In 1999 we started Green Oaks Creek Farm. We ran the farm for fourteen years with the help of apprentices and volunteers. In 2014 we decided to retire from farming and to lease the farm business to three farmers. We are currently dividing our time between running the wedding business at Green Oaks and raising our two daughters, Sienna and Anna.
Meet The Farmers
The three farmers who started to lease our farm business in 2014 and are continuing on with us through the 2015 season and beyond are James Nakahara, Gia Matzinger, and Jon Sattler. They joined us after finishing a six month long intensive apprenticeship at the Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Prior to his apprenticeship at UCSC, James worked at Dinner Bell Farm in Chicago Park, CA. James strongly believes that connecting people with good healthy food, while improving the soil and managing the land responsibly, are the keys to making progressive change to our food systems. An Oakland native, James is excited to be able to work and live on this beautiful stretch of coastline while being close to his family. What motivates him everyday is the smell in the air, the vitality of the land, and all the creatures that dwell on it.
Gia grew up in Menlo Park, California. She studied geology and environmental studies at Whitman College where she was inspired by excitement around community organic gardening and the local food movement. She then worked on organic family farms in Oregon for 2 years while attending the Farms Next Program of the Rogue Farm Corps. Inspired by flower production while at UC Santa Cruz, she now is the flower manager at Green Oaks. Gia is ecstatic to be growing healthy, organic food and flowers for her home community.
Jon grew up in the Bay Area, but his interest in growing food began while he attended Prescott College. In Prescott, he was inspired by friends to start gardening in an effort to be more self sufficient and to have greater control of the food he ate. After college, Jon moved to Oregon where his interests around growing food continued to expand as he worked on several farms, gardens and ranches around the state. Farming at Green Oaks, Jon is excited about living closer to his family and growing food for the communities where he grew up.
Our Goal For The Farm
The multifaceted goal of the farm is to provide an opportunity for new farmers to run an organic farm; to create beauty in sustainable, low-impact, ecologically friendly, simple living; to teach awareness and responsibility through example; and to create and interact with an ever expanding community of people through food production and education.