Hank and Ellen Brokaw started the ranching operation in 1967. Their son, Will, manages all farmers market and direct restaurant sales. The Santa Paula and Soledad ranches collectively utilize 15 full-time employees.
200 acres in Santa Paula and Soledad, 375 and 125 miles respectively to the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market).
The Brokaw Ranch Company specializes in intensively farmed avocado, specialty citrus, and subtropical tree-fruit production. The Brokaws endeavor to consistently produce plentiful crops of top-quality fruit while being good stewards of all resources: soil, water, and people. They try to avoid using synthetic chemicals for pest control but do use them when organic control methods are not effective. They also use a combination of synthetic and natural products for soil fertility. The Brokaw family earnestly pursues the introduction of new and superior avocado, citrus, and subtropical tree-fruit varieties for its patrons.
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 the half owner of, and the first to propagate the nursery stock for, the original Hass avocado variety.
Listen and Learn
On G. L. Alfieri Farms stands a building constructed during the California Gold Rush that served as a stagecoach stop. The site was also home to the first schoolhouse in San Joaquin County.
CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture) is dedicated to cultivating a sustainable food system through the operation of farmers markets and educational programs. Learn More »