Hank and Ellen Brokaw started the farm; son Rob manages the nursery; and son Will manages farmers market sales. They are helped by 15 full-time employees.
200 acres in Ventura and 75 acres in Soledad, 375 and 125 miles respectively to the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market).
Hank and Ellen started Brokaw Nursery in their backyard in the late 1950s. In the 1960s they purchased a ranch and started an orchard from scratch, developing virgin land into fruit trees. The rugged terrain, clay-ey soil, and steep slopes of the ranch have made it challenging and expensive to plant orchards on all of the ranch’s acreage.
Today, the Brokaws export plants to over 45 countries and are one of California’s largest suppliers of subtropical orchard trees. Nursery sales constitute the bulk of their business, but the Brokaws also sell fruit from mature trees at several farmers markets.
Clay, built with potassium, iron, and zinc chelates; urea is added to irrigation water. When trees are unhealthy, the Brokaws will remove them, dig trenches, amend the soil with gypsum and mushroom compost, and then plant new trees.
Sprinkler irrigation from well water.
Round-up (an herbicide) is used around the base of trees for weeds. The Brokaws work hard to avoid having to spray their fruit. One of the biggest problems for avocado growers is a pest called avocado thrip. For two years, Will insisted that trees not be sprayed with Agri-Mek to prevent the pest, but the farm lost 80% of its avocados to thrip. Organic alternatives have not proved effective, and Hank has decided to use the pesticide again to avoid more loss. Citrus fruit is treated with a pesticide called Admire when aphids infest the trees.
Will has deep roots in the avocado business. His great uncle was half-owner of the patent on the original Hass avocado tree.
Listen and Learn
John is a fourth-generation farmer on his land. His great-grandfather raised mules and dry-farmed wheat and barley; his grandfather farmed grapes and raised cattle, and his parents grew melons, tomatoes, grapes, and almonds.
CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture) is dedicated to cultivating a sustainable food system through the operation of the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and its educational programs. Learn More »